Development of organic agriculture as an alternative tool to address the ill-effects of chemical-based cultivation practices is a recent phenomenon in India. It had achieved dramatic progress in the beginning but could not maintain the pace. The growth of organic agriculture in India has been accomplished by three categories of farmers.
The first category is from no input or low input use zones, practising it as a tradition or by default with no organic certification such as the tribes of north-east region. The second and third groups are certified and non-certified farmers, who have recently adopted organic farming realising the ill-effects of modern agriculture and benefits under organic cultivation.
Demand for organic food products is growing rapidly across the globe and amounted to $64 billion in 2012.
Commercial organic agriculture is now practised in more than 164 countries in an area of about 37.5 million hectare representing approximately 0.9 per cent of total farmland along with 549 certification bodies and 732 affiliates of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) from 113 countries.
The leading producers are Australia, European countries, Argentina and the US. Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based on the standards set by the IFOAM established in 1972.
During 2013-14, India exported 135 products, realisation from which was to the tune of $403, million including $183 million contributed by exports of organic textile. Major destinations for organic products from India are the US, EU, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, South-East Asian countries, West Asia, South Africa, etc.
Soyabean (70 per cent) lead among the products exported followed by cereals and millets other than basmati (six per cent), processed food products (five per cent), basmati rice (four per cent), sugar (three per cent), tea (two per cent), pulses and lentils (one per cent), dry fruits (one per cent), spices (one per cent).
Total area under organic certification in India in 2013-14 is estimated to be 4.72 million ha with 15 per cent are certified and the rest under forest area. India has the highest number of organic producers in the world (5,97,873), mainly due to small holdings.
The country has internationally acclaimed certification process for export, import and domestic markets which is regulated by National Programme on Organic Production. There are at least 18 accredited certification agencies which are responsible for the certification process. Though Government initiatives such as National Project on Organic Farming, Horticulture Mission for North-East & Himalayan States, National Horticulture Mission, National Project on Management of Soil Health and Fertility, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana and also Network Project on Organic Farming of Indian Council of Agricultural Research aims at promoting organic agriculture in the country.
However, there is a wide gap in scientific validation and research compared to the progress in the same for general agriculture. Also, there is a need to aid farmers with advisory services (technical and managerial support to form cluster and adopt best management practices).
Key problems faced by organic farmers during the transition phase are non-realisation of premium . A number of State Governments have already made significant strides in organic farming such as Sikkim, Mizoram and Uttrakhand to turn the States completely organic.
However, to accomplish the desired dream, importance must be given to have a mechanism compensating farmers’ sacrifice during initial year of land conversion. The emerging business opportunity in retailing of organic farm produce has drawn the attention of many private parties. This has led to establishment of direct link between farmers and retailers/exporters.
However, each unit is still working in isolation. The International Centre for Competencies in Organic Agriculture (ICCOA) started a knowledge centre for all the stakeholders in 2004 with a view to establish itself.
According to Mukesh Gupta (Executive Director, Morarka Foundation, Jaipur), ICCOA has played the critical role in bringing all the stakeholders together for over a decade now. So far, initiatives of ICCOA such as workshops, training programmes, conferences, seminars, trade fairs, projects, research studies, publications have proved remarkable for growth.
Strong linkage among the organisations in the sector indeed may be a crucial factor in deciding the pace of growth of organic farming in India.
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