Editorial Articles

Vol.29, 2017

Organic Farming In India

Dinesh Kumar and Shweta Mehrotra

Organic farming in India has been reinvented and getting more popularity with each passing day. Farmers, entrepreneurs, researchers, administrators, policy makers and of course consumers are showing increasingly greater interest in promotion and development of organic farming in the country. Organic food products are considered to be much safer and nutritious than the products produced by the conventional farming. Organic farming also helps to restore the soil health, protect environment, enhance biodiversity, sustain crop productivity and enhance farmers’ income. Seeing the long-term benefits of organic farming, the Government of India has taken many important steps for its promotion in the country. With the support of all kinds of stakeholders and the Government, the scope of organic farming movement has widened tremendously in India.   
At present, organic farming is practiced in 179 countries at about 50.9 million hectares of agricultural land (2015).  The market research company ‘Organic Monitor’ estimated the global market for organic food to have reached 81.6 billion US dollars in 2015. Out of 2.4 million organic producers in the world, India continues to have highest number of organic producers, i.e. 5.85 lakhs. This is mainly because of small land holdings with each producer. Currently, India ranks 9th among the top ten countries of the world in terms of cultivable land under organic certification. The data on organic production and area in India is given in Table 1.
In recent years, there has been a considerable increase in certified cultivated area in the country. It has increased from a meagre 0.24 million hectares in 2010-11 to 1.49 million hectares in 2015-16, an over 6-fold increase in five years. Similarly, the certified area (including cultivated and wild harvest area) under organic farming has grown from 4.43 million hectares in 2010-11 to 5.71 million hectares in 2015-16, a 28.9% increase in five years. The organic production has also increased in almost same proportion as increase in area under organic cultivation in recent years. For example, the total certified production (including cultivated and wild harvest area) under organic farming has increased from 0.69 million tonnes in 2011-12 to 1.35 million tonnes in 2015-16, almost two-fold increase in four years. At present, India is producing a great diversity of certified organic products including sugarcane, oil seeds, cereals & millets, cotton, pulses, medicinal plants, tea, fruits, spices, dry fruits, vegetables and coffee etc. Thus, slowly but steadily, India is moving towards organic farming.
Government schemes
In recent times, the Government of India has very actively supported the cause of organic farming movement in the country. It has opened new research and development centres and at the same time strengthened the existing ones. The Government has also launched several new schemes for the popularization of organic farming and equipping the farmers with the latest developments in this field. The first major step taken by the Government was implementation of the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) in the year 2001.  The NPOP involved the accreditation programme for certification agencies, norms for organic production and promotion of organic farming in the country. Another big step taken by the Indian Government was establishment of the National Centre of Organic Farming (NCOF) in Ghaziabad (UP) in the year 2004. This centre has implemented the National Project on Organic Farming (NPOF) at Ghaziabad and its eight regional centres at Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar, Panchkula, Ghaziabad, Imphal, Jabalpur, Nagpur and Patna. The NCOF is also responsible for implementation of the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), a kind of free certification programme for organic farming, particularly suitable for domestic market. For online operation of PGS certification system, a web portal has also been started
and can be accessed at  www.pgsindia-ncof.gov.in. 
The Government of India is promoting organic farming through different schemes or programmes also, such as, National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA)/ Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), National Mission on Oilseeds & Oil Palm (NMOOP), and Network Project on Organic Farming of ICAR. The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare is promoting Organic Farming as a sub-component under NMSA. Under the scheme, financial assistance is provided for setting up of mechanized fruit and vegetable market wastes, agro wastes compost units and setting up of liquid carrier-based biofertilizer and biopesticide production units. The organic farming is also being promoted under Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana in the selected villages adopted by the Hon’ble MPs in their respective constituencies.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has also launched a new research Institute named ‘National Organic Farming Research Institute’ (ICAR-NOFRI) in Gangtok (Sikkim) during 2016. The major mandate of this Institute is to conduct basic, strategic and adaptive research on efficient, economically viable and environmentally sustainable organic farming systems for improving productivity, resource use efficiencies and quality of produce. Another important step in the field of organic farming was the declaration of Sikkim as organic state by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi on 18th January 2016. Since then most of the north-eastern states are interested to promote organic farming in Sikkim way. Furthermore, a Central Sector Scheme namely, Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region has been launched for promoting organic farming in the North Eastern Region with an outlay of Rs. 400 crores for three years from 2015-16 to 2017-18.
            The Government of India is also focusing on increasing the area under organic farming in the country. This task is being achieved through Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), launched by the Government in year 2015. The important aim of the PKVY was to form 10,000 clusters in three years and bring about five lakh acres of agricultural area under organic farming. Fifty or more farmers can form a cluster having 50-acre land to take up the organic farming under this scheme. Every farmer is being provided Rs. 20,000 per acre support for seed to harvesting of crops and to transport produce to the market. To increase the profit from organic crops, it is also important to grow them by scientific methods. In this direction, the ICAR’s Network Project on Organic Farming, Modipuram (UP) is actively evolving the technology packages for cultivation of organic crops suitable for different parts of the country. Besides this, several other ICAR Institutes and State Agricultural Universities (SAU) are promoting organic farming through their research and extension activities.
To conduct research, teaching and extension activities in organic farming, the CSK Himachal Pradesh Agricultural University, Palampur has established a new ‘Department of Organic Agriculture’ in 2009 for the benefit of farmers and others concerned. On the same line, Punjab Agricultural University has also established a new ‘School of Organic Agriculture’ under the ‘College of Agriculture’ in 2017 to carry out multidisciplinary research, training and extension activities for the development and dissemination of scientific knowledge on organic and integrated agriculture. Thus the Central Government and many State Governments have provided excellent support to promote organic farming in the country.
India has an inherent advantage in organic farming because of its diverse geography and climatic conditions. India has a great potential to increase its area under organic farming, particularly in rainfed/ dryland/ hill regions. Many such areas are organic by default and have low productivity as well. Research results have conclusively proved that these lands respond very well to the organic management. Hence, more of these areas should be used for organic cultivation, particularly in the light of the increase in drought frequency. A huge potential is also seen in the export and marketing of organic inputs and outputs (organic products). The opportunities for export are also expanding in the country. Simultaneously, the local demand for organic food is also growing. Organic products, which until now were mainly exported, are now finding consumers in the domestic market as well.
A great employment opportunity also exists in the organic sector. Unemployed people can find employment by producing and marketing the organic seed, organic manures (composts, vermicomposts), organic fertilizers, biofertilizers and organic pesticides. One can easily set up the units for production of vermicompost, biofertilizers and organic pesticides and find self-employment. Several Government and Private Institutions are offering training opportunities, degrees and diplomas in the field of organic farming. The trainings are being offered in the field of production of vermicompost and biofertilizers, and of course, in the production, processing and marketing of organic products. Thus, people can train themselves in a specialized field and secure a suitable job.  
The important constraints being faced by farmers and other stakeholders in the adoption and spread of organic farming in India are listed below.
*Shortage of organic seeds.
*Lack of efficient marketing system from farmer to consumer.
*Lower crop yields in some cases.
*Low income during transition/ conversion period hinders the spread of organic farming.
*Non-availability of premium prices of organic products to the farmers.
*Lack of technology packages for varying crop, soil and climatic conditions. More research is needed to develop eco-friendly techniques for management of weeds, insect-pests and diseases in organic production systems.
*Limited availability of organic manures and biofertilizers.
*Complexities in certification processes, like, PGS (Participatory Guarantee System) and third party certification.
*Weak linkages among the organizations in the organic sector.
*Lack of infrastructure.
*High cost of certain inputs.
With the increasing awareness of consumers about the safety and quality of organic foods, long-term sustainability of agricultural system and accumulating proofs of being equally productive, the organic farming is going to be adopted by more number of farmers. The domestic as well as international market is expanding at a much faster rate in recent times.  Seeing the economic, social, health and environmental benefits of organic farming, the Government of India has supported it in a big way. A number of schemes and programmes are being supported by the Government for promotion of organic farming in the country. A great opportunity for employment of rural youth exists in production, processing and marketing of organic products and inputs. However, it is also important to overcome certain constraints being faced by farmers and other stakeholders in organic farming. Seeing the number of farmers involved in India and support by the Government, it can be easily realized that India is slowly but steadily moving towards organic farming. 
(The authors are in Division of Agronomy, ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi.) Views expressed are personal.
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