December 28, 2012
by Waseem Ahad, ET Bureau
FARIDABAD: As awareness about organic food catches up with the middle class, newer markets have emerged in Delhi-NCR. But unlike Gurgaon, Faridabad has been struggling to measure up as a profitable market for organic food retailers.
When Vivek Ghai launched A-One Organic Farms in Faridabad three years ago, he was quite sure that people would embrace the idea. However, after investing about Rs 1 crore in the business and even running into losses, Ghai still waits for people to wake up to the merits of organic food.
“People believe in quantity and not in quality,” he Ghai. “Organic vegetables are smaller in size and double the cost of conventional vegetables. However, they are poison-free and carry better nutritional value than conventional vegetables. The only spray used as a pesticide for the vegetables is Neem oil. People do not care about the kind of fertilizers and pesticides farmers use while growing vegetables. Through these chemical fertilizers, these vegetables grow only in size, not in substance.”
According to Ghai, organic is a purely self-sustained way of vegetation â€” which means everything should come out of the organic farm itself and not from outside. “It doesn’t need fertilizers or pesticides, rather, natural resources like dung are used to grow such a crop. This is a healthy way of vegetation,” adds Ghai, whose organic farm is spread across 20 acres. Currently, he sells primarily to shopkeepers from Delhi and Faridabad.
According to media reports of December 2007, Haryana government had then decided to promote organic farming across the state and had stipulated Rs 50 lakh as assistance to farmers of the state for certification of organic produce that time.
Harmohinder Singh Chattha, the state minister for agriculture at that time had said that the cost of certification of organic produce would be subsidised and financial assistance of Rs 1,000 per acre would be provided to the farmers, who get their organic produce certified from the accredited certification agency. However, as local business owners maintain, nothing has been done till date.
“Government has taken no steps to encourage us to continue with the farming. Rather the authorities are telling us to close down the organic farms,” alleges Ghai.
The announcement back in 2007 by the government said that many small and marginal farmers, who wished to adopt organic farming were held back due to ‘lack of technological awareness, high cost of certification and unavailability of ready market’.
The minister had said this effort by Haryana State Co-operative Supply and Marketing Federation Limited (HAFED) would not only enlighten the farmers in the most appropriate manner, it would also save farmers from substandard inputs and ensure genuine organic products for consumers at competitive prices.
HAFED is a cooperative, financially sponsored by the government of Haryana to provide services, which include supplying quality agricultural inputs, adequate marketing support and looking after the farmer’s needs at all levels. However, when contacted, HAFED’s additional general manager of matters related to contract and organic farming, Rajneesh Sharma, said, “Faridabad does not fall under our ambit and we do not have any information about any organic farms in the area.”
Apart from government’s indifference towards organic farming in Faridabad, several business owners have other reasons as well. “Faridabad is fast turning into an industrial zone and the agriculture is disappearing from the area,” said Amber Jayna, owner of Bionics Technology, a company that used to provide many types of biotech products for agricultural and environment sciences but closed down operations in Faridabad a year ago.
Ghai also said, “Construction companies pay much higher prices for the land than an organic vegetable yield can produce. So it is natural people are opting out of the business,” he said.
HOPE AMID DESPAIR
Amidst big players fading out from the market, an organic vegetable store-owner in Faridabad has a different story to tell. Anil Goel of Jai Bharat Foods started selling organic vegetables eight months ago and has been satisfied with the market in the area. “I pick up vegetables from small organic farmers of Faridabad and I have found the market ever increasing as people come to know more about the organic vegetables.”