The worldwide market for organic food and drink is recovering from the aftermath of the economic crisis, according to data available with organic food and drink marketing and information services firm Organic Monitor, published in Organic World.
Organic farming or chemicals-free farming is in the news in India as well.
In Bihar’s Darveshpura village, organic potato farmer Nitish Kumar managed to harvest 72.9 tonnes of the rhizome per hectare.
Officials said Kumar’s harvest beats the existing world record - farmers in Netherlands had previously harvested 45 tonnes per hectare, according to a March 28 IANS report published in Firstpost.com
Official data showed that India’s organic food production more than doubled to 3.8 million tonnes in the 2010-11 financial year. But area under cultivation fell three percent to 4.42 million hectares in that year, according to a Mint article.
While absolute output may have increased over the years, the yield per acre has not gone up, said Sarvdaman Patel, president of the Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI). “Organic farming techniques cannot be multiplied and there can never be one perfect technique for a crop, countrywide,” he added.
“Take inputs for instance. A new batch of organic manure cannot be identical in its composition to the previous one,” Patel added. Chemical fertilizers can be.
“But for organic farming to take off in a big way, India needs more state support and an organized market for organic food products. But none of this will work without better consumer awareness,” Patel said.
Success stories in organic farming “are few in our country,” said Patel, who runs a 40-acre farm located 15km away from the milk dairy in Anand, Gujarat.
Problems are aplenty, including labour shortages, a very small market for organic products in relative terms and the temptation to grow cash crops that helps the smaller farmer make quick money, according to Patel. “Many organic farmers in Gujarat took to growing BT Cotton because it makes more money and now organic farming is down by around 50 percent,” he added.
Babu P, a member of the OFAI national steering committee opines that the current approach to farming in India is unsustainable. And statistics around organic farming output could be ignored at this stage. “Organic farming is still in a nascent stage and that makes it difficult to quantify local or national productivity.”
Babu calls himself an ‘organic farming activist’ and he works with small farmers in Karnataka. State support for organic farming, he says, is almost non-existent at the ground level. “A lot of our policies tend to favor chemical farming. Scientists are not involved in the larger sustainable agriculture debate. (Government) departments are clueless as to the diversity that India presents.
The Indian Council for Agricultural Research has published three volumes on innovations in farming techniquies. These find no mention in our agriculture policies. Furthermore, budgetary allocation for research and development of organic farming is insufficient, Babu added.
Creating the market for organic products, according to Babu, will take time. A bigger concern is the Indian sensitivity to the “smallest variations” in prices. “Organic products should be available in abundance” to address the pricing issue, he says.
Global sales of organic food products rose five percent to USD54.9 billion in 2009, according to Organic Monitor.
Back home, Darveshpura, situated in Bihar’s Nalanda district, is chief minister Nitish Kumar’s home district. Applauding farmer Nitish Kumar’s feat, the state gifted baskets of organic potatoes to all 243 legislators, hoping they would spread the good word about organic potato farming.