ORGANIC BY DEFAULT
Organic farming is either really expensive or really cheap, depending on where you live and whether or not they are certified. In India the natural or organic pesticides and fertilizers are as costly or costlier than their chemical counterparts. For any farmer proving you are an organic farmer requires certification, which is time consuming and expensive and that’s where the problems arises.
Many Indian farmers are still practicing organic methods, passed down for generations. Organic fertilizer and natural pest control methods are the only tools available to most of these farmers, who have always lacked the financial resources to explore chemical solutions. But these farmers, whose produce is as organic as they come, cannot afford to pay the fees required to gain official certification.
Also farmers from tribal and hilly areas have practically no access to chemical fertilizers because of their difficult to reach locations.
65% of the country’s cropped area is “organic by default,” according to a study by Rabo India. By this they mean that small farmers, located mostly in the Eastern and North-Eastern regions of the country, have no choice except to farm without chemical fertilisers or pesticides. Though this is true in many cases, it is also true that a significant number of them have chosen to farm organically, as they are aware of the ill effects of chemicals in the long run.
In a survey India ranks 1st in the largest number of organic producers in the world (2020). Yet in the same survey India comes in the 8th place in terms of World's Organic Agricultural land. Now one would think, Why the contrast? Basically, most of India’s organic farms are not officially certified as organic. Most of them are “organic by default.”
In 2019-20, according to Government statistics, from a total food production of over 291.95 million tonnes, the country produced only 2.75 million MT of organic food products. This statistical discrepancy reveals that the weak link in the organic/economic chain is certification. Under current government policy, it takes four years for a farm to be certified as organic. The cost of preparing the report is a flat fee of around Rs. 20000, and the certificate itself costs another Rs. 30000. While these costs are bearable for the new industrial organic greenhouses, they are equal to or more than an entire year’s income for the average small farmer, if the costs of travel and inspection are included.
The basic solution to help out these farmers is "Community certification". In community certification, communities, on a non-profit basis, take charge of the certification process themselves. They evaluate the farmer’s commitment to the stewardship of the soil, and examine from many angles whether the food is being grown in an environmentally sensitive way or not, rather than technical standards.
But this solution is viable only at the local level. It is not enough to meet the international standards. For a more permanent solution the
government should subsidise the cost of such certifications enough to make it easily affordable to the small farmers while keeping quality process strict. Strict guidelines combined with affordable certification cost will benefit the farmers and the consumers equally.
India is the major producer, consumer and exporter of spices in the world. India grows over 60 different varieties of spices because of varied agro-climatic conditions and soil types. India produces about 60 Lakh MT of spices, of which, about 6.9 Lakh MT (11%) is exported to more than 150 countries.
India is know as the land of spices and that’s why we at Earthon started our journey by collaborating with small farmers to procure the best quality spices. Earthon closely works with farmers in Karnataka who cultivate their farms using organic techniques and never use chemicals and harmful fertilisers. Our farmers convert their farmlands into Organic by following Vermicast process, i.e. using organic/natural fertiliser that is created by using composting earthworms.
Earthon ensures the farmers get their dues by converting their farmlands into Organic and not using harmful chemicals that eventually destroy our ecosystem.
Earthon’s organic spices are one of best in the industry preferred by Chefs and many households for its strong flavours and lovely aroma. Buy Earthon’s organic spices and other staples and support the small farmers around the country.
In one the Hindu newspaper’s annual environmental report, P.V. Satheesh, Director of the Deccan Development Society, writes, “It’s a sobering thought that the farmers producing the best and cleanest food must pay extra to certify, instead of inorganic foods being certified as potentially bad for our health.” Let us hope that we achieve this some day.
- Sujata Gaonkar