With the largest number of growers, India can emerge as a major player in global organic markets amid increasing demand for healthy and safe food across the world battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, said the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare on Thursday.
With greater awareness and capacity building of the producers on compliance with international standards, Indian organic farmers will soon be reinforcing their rightful place in global agri trade, the ministry said in a statement.
India ranks first in the number of organic farmers and ninth in terms of area under organic farming. Sikkim became the first state in the country to become fully organic and other states including Tripura and Uttarakhand have set similar targets. Northeast India has traditionally been organic and the consumption of chemicals is far less there than in the rest of the country. Similarly the tribal and island territories are being nurtured to continue their organic story.
“The growth story of organic farming is unfolding with increasing demand not only in India but also globally and in a world battered by the COVID pandemic, the demand for healthy and safe food is already showing an upward trend and hence this is an opportune moment to be captured for a win-win situation for our farmers, consumers and the environment,” said the statement.
With the aim of assisting farmers to adopt organic farming and improve remunerations due to premium prices, two dedicated programmes, namely Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North East Region (MOVCD) and Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) were launched in 2015 to encourage chemical-free farming. With the simultaneous thrust given by the Agri-Export Policy 2018, India can emerge as a major player in global organic markets.
The major organic exports from India have been flax seeds, sesame, soybean, tea, medicinal plants, rice and pulses, which were instrumental in driving an increase of nearly 50 per cent in organic exports in 2018-19, touching Rs 5,151 crore. Modest commencement of exports from Assam, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland to the UK, USA, and Italy have proved the potential by increasing volumes and expanding to new destinations as the demand for health foods increases, said the ministry.
Certification is an important element of organic produce to instill customer confidence and both PKVY and MOVCD are promoting certification under Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) and National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP), respectively, targeting domestic and exports markets. The Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations, 2017 are based on the standards of NPOP and PGS.
The consumer should look for the logos of FSSAI, Jaivik Bharat/PGS Organic India on the produce to establish the organic authenticity of the produce. PGS Green is granted to chemical-free produce under transition to ‘organic’ which takes 3 years.
About 40,000 clusters are being assisted under PKVY covering an area of about 7 lakh ha. MOVCD has brought in its fold 160 FPOs cultivating about 80,000 ha. For these clusters to become sustainable, it is important that henceforth market-led production starts in a contract farming mode, so that there is a ready market for the produce and industry also gets the desired quality and quantity when required, said the statement.
The commodities with highest potential include ginger, turmeric, black rice, spices, nutri cereals, pineapples, medicinal plants, buckwheat, bamboo shoots, among others. Supplies have started from the northeast including for Mother Dairy from Meghalaya, Revanta Foods and Big Basket from Manipur.
The instances of farmer groups setting up markets in RWAs and selling directly is increasingly becoming common especially in Maharashtra and Karnataka where fresh organic produce is lapped up by the urbanites and farmers get a better bargain with no intermediaries, according to the ministry.