7 PM | The ruinous impact of chemical farming | 19th July, 2019

Context: organic farming and its prominence on Indian agriculture.

Organic farming system in India is not new and is being followed from ancient time. It is a method of farming system which primarily aimed at cultivating the land and raising crops in such a way, as to keep the soil alive and in good health by use of organic wastes (crop, animal and farm wastes, aquatic wastes) and other biological materials along with beneficial microbes (biofertilizers) to release nutrients to crops for increased sustainable production in an eco friendly pollution free environment.

Significance and need for organic forming in India:

  • Growing awareness: Globally, there is growing awareness of the adverse impact of chemical inputs on the soil, environment and human health. This has prompted both developed and developing countries to shift towards organic farming and organic food products.
  • Demand: Increasing per capita income and growing health consciousness among the people led to increase in the demand for organic products. According to a report produced jointly by Assocham and Ernst & Young, the organic products market in India has been growing at a CAGR of 25 per cent and it is expected to touch ₹10,000-₹12,000crore by 2020 from the current market size of ₹ 4,000crore.
  • Input cost: A substantial increase in input costs of materials has led to a decline in crop income over the years. This has resulted in the purchasing power of farmers not improving even though there was an increase in farm output. But Organic farming reduces the input cost, increases fertility of soil and increases the production.
  • Small farmers: according to 10th agriculture census, there is a marginal increase in small and marginal farmers and nearly 86% of farmers in India are small and marginal farmers. Commercial agriculture in small fields is not cost effective and organic farming look promising
  • Environmental issues:
    • Fertilizers: per hectare consumption of fertilizer is 165kg approximately, although it is less than developed countries. Both drinking and irrigation water wells in large numbers have been found contaminated with nitrates, some of them are having even 45 mg per litre, well above the safe level.
    • Pesticides: the use of pesticide in agriculture is 350gm/hectare as against world average is 500gm/hectare. Almost all pesticides are toxic in nature and pollute the environment leading to grave damage to ecology and human life itself. This indiscriminate use leaves toxic residues in foodgrans, fodder, vegetables, meat, milk, milk products, etc. besides in soil and water.
    • Salinity and water logging: Heavy irrigation is necessary to get high production, as the new varieties cannot withstand water scarcity. This leads to salinity and water logging leaving the land uncultivable. Over exploitation of underground water is another effect. When water table falls, increasing energy will be required to lift water for irrigation.
  • Healthy products: A study conducted in USA on the nutritional values of both organic and conventional foods found that consumption of the former is healthier. Apples, pears, potatoes, corn, wheat and baby foods were analyzed to find out ‘bad’ elements such as aluminum, cadmium, lead and mercury and also ‘good’ elements like boron, calcium, iron, magnesium selenium and zinc. The organic food, in general, had more than 20 per cent less of the bad elements and about 100 per cent more of the good elements.

Challenges to organic farming in India:

  • Behavioral factors:since last 5 decades, majority farmers in India adopted to intensive agriculture (where fertilizers, pesticides, high yield seeds are used). And moreover majority farmers are small and marginal due to that they are not able to take the risk of adopting organic farming
  • Productivity: in initial years like 4 to 5 years, organic farming doesn’t produce desired results to farmers. Because of the lack of productivity organic and conventional farmers are not willing to take organic farming
  • Area coverage:according to world of organic agriculture 2018, India is home to 30 per cent of the total organic producers in the world, but accounts for just 2.59 per cent (1.5 million hectares) of the total organic cultivation area of 57.8 million hectares. Out of 141 million hectares net sown area, only 1% of area is under organic farming in India.
  • Shortage of Bio-mass: The small and marginal cultivators have difficulties in getting the organic manures compared to the chemical fertilizers, which can be bought easily. Along with that Increasing pressure of population and the disappearance of the common lands including the wastes and government lands make the task difficult.
  • Expensive: organic produce are usually more expensive due to higher labor cost and comparatively lower yields and post-harvest handling of relatively small quantities of organic foods also results in higher costs because of the mandatory segregation of organic and conventional produce, especially for processing and transportation.
  • Output marketing:lack of assurance from the government and market many organic farmers sell their product at very low prices. It was found that the farmers of organic wheat in Rajasthan got lower prices than those of the conventional wheat.

Government initiatives and measures to increase organic farming:

  • National mission on sustainable agriculture (NMSA): NMSA is envisaged as one of the eight Missions outlined under National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), the major thrust is enhancing agriculture productivity especially in rainfed areas focusing on integrated farming, soil health management, and synergizing resource conservation. All the components of NMSA such as Rain fed Agriculture, Soil Health Management, Organic Farming, etc. have significant role in achieving Sustainable Development Goals & Intended Nationally Determined Contributions.
  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)” a sub- component of Soil Health Management (SHM) scheme under National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) aims at development of models of excellence in organic farming through a mix of traditional wisdom and modern science in value chain mode to install sustainability, ensure long term soil fertility buildup, resource conservation and to offer safe and healthy food grown through organic practices without the use of agro- chemicals.
  • Mission organic value chain development for north eastern region: Realizing the potential of organic farming in the North Eastern Region of the country, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has launched Central Sector Scheme entitled“Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region” for implementation in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, during 2015-16 to 2017-18.
  • The scheme aims at development of certified organic production in a value chain mode to link growers with consumers and to support the development of entire value chain starting from inputs, seeds, certification and creation of facilities for collection, aggregation, processing, marketing and brand building initiative.
  • Organic state:12 years of efforts by Sikkim government and people, Sikkim state to become India’s first fully organic state by implementing organic practices on around 75,000 hectares of agricultural land. So the governments both central and state, civil society should promote organic forming throughout India.
  • Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF): Andhra Pradesh is pushing for a chemical-free agricultural practice of zero budget natural farming (ZBNF), which it plans to scale up from about 160,000 farmers currently to six million by 2024. On the same lines other state governments also promote ZBNF in a phased manner.

Way forward: India has traditionally been a country of organic agriculture, but the growth of modern scientific, input intensive agriculture has pushed it to wall. But with the increasing awareness about the safety and quality of foods, long term sustainability of the system and accumulating evidences of being equally productive, the organic farming has emerged as an alternative system of farming which not only address the quality and sustainability concerns, but also ensures a debt free, profitable livelihood option.


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