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[Sansad TV] Perspective: The ‘Organic’ Growth

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Organic Farming is poised to become 75000 cr rupee market by 2025. The Indian Organic market is expected to grow at an annual rate of more than 20%.  However, India’s share in the global organic market is just 1%. India has potential but there are challenges.

The road to transforming the agricultural practices in India to absolutely an organic one, is accompanied by challenges that require expert intervention and a proper discussion.

We shall study them in brief.

Context

  • The relevance and need for an eco-friendly alternative farming system arose from the ill effects of the chemical farming practices adopted worldwide during the second half of the last century.
  • In the present times, the practice of organic farming has gathered immense prominence in India as the government introduced several welfare measures and subsidies to promote such practices.
  • Organic farming is one of the several approaches found to meet the objectives of sustainable agriculture.
  • It opens up a sustainable doorway to prevent various health hazards originating from the agro-based products that we consume.

What is Organic Farming?

  • Organic farming is an agricultural system that uses fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting.
  • It is a system of management and agricultural production that combines a high level of biodiversity with environmental practices that preserve natural resources.
  • It may also have rigorous standards for animal welfare.

Organic Farming in India

  • Organic farming is in a nascent stage in India. About 2.78 million hectare of farmland was under organic cultivation as of March 2020, according to the Union Agriculture Ministry.
  • This is two per cent of the 140.1 million ha net sown area in the country.
  • The top three states — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra — account for about half the area under organic cultivation.
  • Madhya Pradesh tops the list with 0.76 million ha of area under organic cultivation — that is over 27 per cent of India’s total organic cultivation area.
  • Sikkim is the only state to be considered fully organic.

Important Government Initiatives

India introduced the organic farming policy in 2005.

The 2.78 million ha was covered under organic farming in India is about two per cent of the 140.1 million ha net sown area in the country. Of this,

  1. 1.94 million ha is under National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP)
  2. 0.59 million ha under Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)
  3. 0.07 million ha under Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Regions (MOVCDNER)
  4. 0.17 million ha under state schemes or non-schemes

This shows that NPOP scheme covers about 70 per cent of the organic area of the country, of which 30 per cent is under conversion.

Need for Organic Farming in India

The present system of agriculture which we call ‘conventional’ promoted an overriding quest for accumulation of wealth ignoring many objects of sustainability.

  • Reducing ecological damage: The need for organic farming in India arises from the unsustainability of agriculture production and the damage caused to ecology through the conventional farming practices.
  • Averting heavy mechanization:  The high cost of the machines necessitated high profits, which in turn put pressure to raise productivity. Then, only those crops with high productivity were cultivated which needed increased quantities of fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Increasing menace of pests: Increasing use of pesticides resulted in the damage to environment and increased resistance of insects to them. Pesticides harmed useful organisms in the soil.
  • Productivity issues: The monoculture of high yielding seeds required external inputs of chemical fertilizers. The fertilizers also destroy soil organisms leading to reduction of crop yields in the long run.
  • Food safety: The consumers are increasingly concerned about the quality of the products they consume and food safety has become a crucial requirement. Safety, quality and hygienic standards are increasingly becoming popular.
  • Employability of agriculture: The agriculture and allied sectors in India provides employment to 65 per cent of the workers and accounts for 30 per cent of the national income.  
  • Combatting desertification: Organically cultivated soils are relatively better attuned to withstand water stress and nutrient loss. Their potential to counter soil degradation is high and it may help to combat desertification.
  • Maintenance of genetic diversity: The genetic base of crops is very important and a reduction of genetic diversity leads to the emergence of pests on a large scale.

Benefits of Organic Farming

  • Establishing harmony with nature: Organic agricultural practices are based on a maximum harmonious relationship with nature aiming at the non-destruction of the environment.
  • Improvement in Soil Quality: Soil quality is the foundation on which organic farming is based. Efforts are directed to build and maintain the soil fertility through the organic farming practices.
  • Increased Crop Productivity and Income: The cost of cultivation is lower in the organic farming due to the non-use of fertilizers and chemical insecticides. The yields and net income are low, but it increased progressively with years.
  • Low incidence of Pests:  Bio-control methods have been successful in pest control. Indigenous technological products such as Panchagavya (five products of cow origin) which was experimented.
  • Employment Opportunities: Organic farming requires more labour input than the conventional farming system.
  • Indirect benefits:
  • Consumers get healthy foods with better palatability and taste and nutritive values
  • Farmers are indirectly benefited from healthy soils and farm production environment

Various challenges

(A) Raising agricultural productivity per unit of land:

  • This is the main engine of agricultural growth as virtually all cultivable land is farmed.
  • Water resources are also limited and water for irrigation must contend with increasing industrial and urban needs.
  • All measures to increase productivity will need exploiting, amongst them: increasing yields, diversification to higher value crops, and developing value chains to reduce marketing costs.

(B) Reducing rural poverty through a socially inclusive strategy that comprises both agriculture as well as non-farm employment:

  • Rural development must also benefit the poor, landless, women, scheduled castes and tribes.
  • Moreover, there are strong regional disparities: the majority of India’s poor are in rain-fed areas or in the Eastern Indo-Gangetic plains. Reaching such groups has not been easy.
  • Poverty alleviation is a central pillar of the rural development efforts of the Government and the World Bank.

(C) Ensuring that agricultural growth responds to food security needs:

  • The slow-down in agricultural growth has become a major cause for concern.
  • Policy makers need to initiate and conclude policy actions and public programs to shift the sector away from the existing policy.

Way forward

(1) Promoting new technologies and reforming agricultural research and extension:

  • Major reform and strengthening of India’s agricultural research and extension systems is one of the most important needs for agricultural growth.

(2) Improving Water Resources and Irrigation/Drainage Management:

  • Agriculture is India’s largest user of water. There is a need to manage as opposed to exploit the use of groundwater.

(3) Facilitating agricultural diversification to higher-value commodities:

  • Encouraging farmers to diversify to higher value commodities will be a significant factor for higher agricultural growth, particularly in rain-fed areas where poverty is high.

(4) Promoting high growth commodities:

  • Some agricultural sub-sectors have particularly high potential for expansion, notably dairy. The livestock sector, primarily due to dairy, contributes over a quarter of agricultural GDP and is a source of income for 70% of India’s rural families.

(5) Developing markets, agricultural credit and public expenditures:

  • India’s legacy of extensive government involvement in agricultural marketing has created restrictions in internal and external trade, resulting in cumbersome and high-cost marketing and transport options for agricultural commodities.
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