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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.

Growth

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 Honble 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 Honble 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 ICARs 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.

Opportunities

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.

Constraints

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.

Conclusion

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.