Organic farming is a system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives etc.) and to the maximum extent feasibly rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection.
India is bestowed with lot of potential to produce varieties of organic products due to its various agro climatic conditions. In several parts of the country, the inherited tradition of organic farming is an added advantage. This holds promise for the organic producers to tap the market which is growing steadily in the domestic and export sector. As per the available statistics, India’s rank 8th in terms of World’s Organic Agricultural land and 1st in terms of total number of producers as per 2020 data (Source: FIBL & IFOAM Year Book, 2020).
In 2018, 2.8 million organic producers were reported. India continues to be the country with the highest number of producers (1’149’000), followed by Uganda (210’000), and Ethiopia (204’000)- Source- Willer, et al (2020): The World of Organic Agriculture. Statistics and Emerging Trends 2020. Among all the states of India, Madhya Pradesh has covered largest area under organic certification followed by Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Odisha, Sikkim and Uttar Pradesh. During 2016, Sikkim has achieved a remarkable distinction of converting its entire cultivable land (more than 75000 ha) under organic certification.
The total volume of export during 2019-20 was 6.389 lakh MT. The organic food export realization was around INR 4,686 crore (689 million USD). Organic products are exported to USA, European Union, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, Israel, UAE, New Zealand, Vietnam etc. In terms of export value realization Processed foods including soya meal (45.87%) lead among the products followed by Oilseeds (13.25%), Plantation crop products such as Tea and Coffee (9.61%), Cereals and millets (8.19%), Spices and condiments (5.20%), Dry fruits (4.98%), Sugar (3.91%), Medicinal plants (3.84%) and others.
Source: Organic Products. (2020, October 5). Retrieved from http://apeda.gov.in/apedawebsite/organic/Organic_Products.htm
Some key characteristics of organic farming
- Protecting the long-term fertility of soil by maintaining organic matter levels and encouraging its activity
- Protect the environment, minimize the amount of soil degradation and erosion, decrease pollution
- Rely on renewable sources rather than chemical fertilizers
- Recycle materials as much as possible in order to maintain the consistency amongst soil and environment
- Providing crop nutrients indirectly using relatively insoluble nutrient sources which are made available to the plant by the action of soil micro-organisms
- Produce safe food and other products for human and animal consumption and use.
History of Organic Farming
Organic farming and India have its own long-lasting relationship since years beginning from ancient times.
Indian civilization thrived on organic farming and was one of the most prosperous countries in the world, till the British ruled it. In traditional India, the entire agriculture was practiced using only organic techniques where fertilizers and pesticides were obtained from animals and plants. The cow not only provided milk, but also dung which was used as fertilizers.
Albert Howard was imperial botanist to the Government of India from 1905-1924. He worked in India as agricultural advisor and oversaw a Government research farm. Though he helped India to teach western agricultural techniques, he found out that Indians could in fact teach him more. Howard has been called the father of modern composting. He went on to document and develop organic farming techniques and spread his knowledge through the UK-based Soil Association. His book, “An Agricultural Testament” of 1940 is a classic organic farming text.
Organic food sales increased from the 20th century. Greater environmental awareness and the health impact of Genetically modified crops fostered the growth of the organic sector. In the United States, retail sales increased from $20.39 billion in 2008 to $47.9 billion in 2019, while sales in Europe reached more than $37 billion in 2017. The price of organic food is slightly higher than the pesticide included food. It depends on the season, the variety and the vagaries supply and demand.
Need of organic farming
The World Trade Centre mentioned that the growing demand for organically farmed fresh food and products has created interests in both consumer and producer regarding the nutritional value of organically and conventionally grown foods. According to studies, organically made leafy vegetables has higher dry matter than the conventionally grown foods. Although organic cereals and their products contain less proteins than conventional cereals, they have higher quality proteins with better amino acid scores.
Organic farming has a protective role in environmental conservation. The effect of organic and conventional agriculture on the environment has been extensively studied. Organic farming is less harmful to the environment than conventional practices including pesticides, chemical fertilizers, synthetic stuff, most of which is harmful to water, soil and the respective aquatic life. In addition, organically managed soils are of greater quality and have water retention capacity, resulting in higher yield in organic farms even during the drought years.
Organic farming is more profitable, the increase in the cost of production using pesticides and its negative health impact on the farmer’s lives affect only the manufacturer of those pesticides. Also, continuous use of those chemical fertilizers leads to more soil degradation and loss in production levels which makes farming economically unstable globally.
Major Challenges of Organic Farming in India
Lack of Awareness: Many farmers in the country have only vague ideas about organic farming and its advantages as against the conventional farming methods. Use of bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides requires awareness and willingness on the part of the farming community.
Marketing the produce at premium price: It is found that before the beginning of the cultivation of organic crops, their marketability and that too at a premium over the conventional produce has to be assured. Inability to obtain a premium price, at least during the period required to achieve the productivity levels of the conventional crop will be a setback.
High Input Costs: The small and marginal farmers in India have been practicing a sort of organic farming in the form of the traditional farming system. They use local or own farm renewable resources and carry on the agricultural practices in an ecologically friendly environment. For commercial cultivation better organic inputs are required and their cost is higher than chemical fertilizers and pesticides including other inputs used in the non-organic farming system.
Availability of Organic Inputs: Bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides are yet to become popular in the country. There is a lack of marketing and distribution network for them because the retailers are not interested to deal in these products, as the demand is low. The erratic supplies and the low level of awareness of the cultivators also add to the problem. Inadequate availability of organic inputs in time was identified as the first major constraint by the certified organic farmers based on the rank (Source- Sivaraj, P., et al 2017. Constraints and Suggestions of Certified Organic Farmers in Practicing Organic Farming)
Pest & Disease control: It is very difficult to control pest and disease in organic cultivation where the farmer’s field nearby has inorganic cultivation of crops.
Low Yields: In many cases, the farmers experience some loss in crop yield on discarding synthetic inputs on conversion of their farming method from conventional to organic. It may also be possible that it will take years to make organic production profitable on the farm.
Certifications: Various agencies have been appointed by the Government of India for Organic Certification both for sale in India and International. However, it takes 3 years of gestation period, once the organic cultivation starts, to get the desired certificate to sell the produce with Organic label.
Organic farming produces healthier, nutritious and safe food. The popularity of organic foods is increasing day by day as people are being aware of benefits of organic food consumption . In short, organic food ensures the safety from farm to plate. Organic farming methods are eco-friendlier than conventional farming. Organic farming not only helps to maintain consumer’s lives but it also helps to maintain the health of soil by increasing its fertility level. Moreover, the organic produce market is now the fastest growing market in India. Let’s make the world a better place by applying Organic Farming techniques over the conventional farming methods!
UKPL and Organic Farming
UKPL has taken up various pilots on productions of organic crops both in the open field and in the green house.
The company has standardized compost production from fruit waste of gherkins (Cucumber) and other agro waste in Aaga composting system. This compost can be used as fertilizer to improve the soil productivity in an organic cultivation system.
The company has initiated and standardized the production of organic Dill (herb) in commercial scale.
In Andhra Pradesh, the company has initiated pilot production of organic gherkins production both in the opened field and in green house to optimise the cultivation practices including organic fertilizer and pesticide inputs for optimum yields. The initial results are encouraging in term of crop yield and quality.
Company has also been focusing on cultivation of organic crop viz. capsicum, chillies, medicinal crop etc in a poly house facility in Maharashtra. This project is under Organic Certification process and the company has received 2nd year organic conversion certificate from Uttarakhand State Organic Certification Agency (USOCA) as per Indian NPOP organic standards. UKPL is the first company in India to receive organic certificate for protected organic cultivation of horticulture crop in a green house.