Organic Farming in India

Organic by Default: The Irony of Organic Farming in India
Organic Farm in India
A modern organic farm in Rajasthan, India

Editor’s Note: Organic farming is either really expensive or really cheap, depending on where you live and whether or not you are certified. Not only are the “natural” pesticides and fertilizers increasingly marketed by agribusiness as costly or costlier than their chemical counterparts, but proving you are an organic farmer requires certification, which is time-consuming and expensive. In the USA, converting to organic agriculture is a huge undertaking for commercial farmers, who have relied on chemical fertilizers and pesticides for many decades, but in India, the conversion is no less arduous, and far more ironic.

India’s farmers are still mostly practicing organic methods, passed down for millenia. Organic fertilizer and natural pest control 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.


As the international community adopts standards for organic agriculture, the challenges faced by farmers in the USA versus farmers in India in order to adapt are very different indeed. The danger is that the well-intentioned global move towards organic standards will make small organic farmers in countries like India, who have been never done anything but organic farming, no longer able to sell their crops.

In response to the $26 billion global market for organic foods,

Spices Board Logo
Spice Board

the Indian Central Government set up a National Institute of Organic Farming in October 2003 in Ghaziabad, Madhya Pradesh. The purpose of this institute is to formulate rules, regulations and certification of organic farm products in conformity with international standards. The major organic products sold in the global markets include dried fruits and nuts, cocoa, spices, herbs, oil crops, and derived products. Non-food items include cotton, cut flowers, livestock and potted plants.

J.S. Mann, commissioner of Horticulture for the Union Agriculture Ministry, said, “The institute, set up as part of the national program for organic production, will have its offices across the country and is appointing certifying agencies for organic farm products for the domestic market.”

Organic Farm
Most farms in India are organic but not certified

The certifying agencies thus far named by the Centre include the APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority), the Tea Board, the Spices Board, the Coconut Development Board and the Directorate of Cashew and Cocoa. They will be accountable for confirming that any product sold with the new “India Organic” logo is in accordance with international criteria, and will launch major awareness and marketing campaigns, in India and abroad.

Rajnath Singh, Additional Director-General of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), in the LBS seminar on Organic Farming, said that currently the export of organic products is allowed only if “the produce is packed under a valid organic certification issued by a certifying agency accredited by a designated agency.”

Coconut Board Logo
Coconut
Board

Organic farming has been identified as a major thrust area of the 10th plan of the central government. 1 billion rupees have been allocated to the aforementioned National Institute of Organic Farming alone for the 10th five-year plan, Mann said. And by the end of 2004, according to APEDA chairman K.S. Money, 15% of farm products will be organically grown & processed. A working group has been set up by the Planning Commission, and the Department of Commerce has established National Organic Standards.

Tea Board India Logo
Tea Board India

What’s all the rush? Money, of course. Statistics are predicting that the global market that was only $17 billion in the year 2000 may touch the $31 billion mark by 2005– and India’s current share is only 0.001 per cent. In a survey called Land Area under Organic Management (SOEL-survey), India comes in 75th place in the world, alongside Cameroon. Officially, only 0.03 per cent of its land is slated to be under Organic
Agriculture– yet, in the same survey, the number of organic farms is listed as 5660, catapulting it to 16th place in the global organic map. What does this mean? Basically, most of India’s organic farms are not officially considered (or certified as) organic.

Organic Farm in India
“Organic by Default” – methods that worked for
millennia suddenly require certification

Most of India’s farms are “organic by default.”
The irony and difficulty of the new governmental push for organic agriculture is that 65% of the country’s cropped area is “organic by default,” according to a study by Rabo India. By this somewhat degrading term 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 fertilizers 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 their forefathers have done for thousands of years.

Many have seen for themselves the effects of chemical farming – soil erosion and loss of soil nutrients, loss of nutrition in food, and human diseases resulting from the chemicals that inevitably seep into the water table, all the reasons for the urgent demand for organic foods and farming.

In 2002, according to Government statistics, from a total food production of over 200 million tonnes, the country produced only 14,000 tonnes of organic food products. India currently has only 1,426 certified organic farms.

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 Rs. 5000, and the certificate itself costs another Rs. 5000. 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.

USDA Logo
U.S. Dept.
of Agriculture
Cows in Indian Farm
Organic fertilizer production

In the United States, an organic farm plan or organic handling plan must be submitted to a USDA – accredited private or state certification program. The plan must explain all current growing and handling methods, and any materials that will be used – in the present, and any future plans must be included as well. Records for the last five years must be presented. Land must be chemical-free for three years prior to harvest, so a
conventional farmer cannot receive the organic label for the transitional years. This will generally mean a decrease in income– crops may be less plentiful than with conventional fertilizers and pesticides, and yet the higher price for organic products won’t yet be possible. Many farmers cannot afford the transition, even if they want to.

IFOAM Logo
Intl. Federation of
Organic Agricultural
Movements

One solution to the small farmer’s dilemma of how to both certify and survive is that of community certification. At the World Organic Congress, hosted last year by IFOAM (International Forum for Organic Agricultural Movements) in Victoria, Canada, the theme was “Cultivating Communities.” The idea of community certification of organic farms was the main topic of discussion, a concept increasingly popular among farming communities worldwide who have become fed up with accreditation agencies.

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.

Directorate of Cashew & Cocoa Logo
Directorate of
Cashew & Cocoa

While community certification may be a viable solution on the local level, it is our opinion that, in the global marketplace, less than exact technical standards will never be enough for today’s consumer – and, in today’s largely poisoned environment, it shouldn’t be, either. Furthermore, such “soft” guidelines can easily backfire on the farmers themselves, as a system not based on facts must be by definition subject to local politics, bribery, favoritism, etc.

Sunset in India
Certification to International Organic Standards
will not be easy for India’s small farmers

India must find a way to keep the strict international organic standards intact if it wants to compete in the international market for organic foods– but is there a way to do it without leaving small farmers out in the cold? One obvious solution is for the government so eager to make India organic to subsidize these certification fees enough to make it a viable option for ordinary farmers, not just for neo-organic factory farms and greenhouses. Banks also could provide a more level playing field for small
farmers– currently, almost all bank loans are for pure crop farmers, that is, monoculturalists. While many of these big-business farmers use harmful chemicals and processes, small farmers fertilizing their soil with recycled organic wastes are usually ineligible for insurance, much less state subsidies.

In 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.”

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54 Responses to “Organic Farming in India”
  1. Prachi Unde says:

    I would like to know the legal hurdles in India for setting up an SPV engaged in organic Farming

  2. Ganesa says:

    Sir, This is one of, if not the best article(s) I have read on Organic Farming in India. As a proponent of such organic methods and as a person who intends to do just that in the very near future in India on a small, self-sufficient scale, I appreciated the very fair and unbiased way in which the authors presented the plights and advantages that the small Indian farmer has.

    I hold a strong stance against such ‘agri-business’ especially in the organic movement because in principle the same motives of commodity monopolisation, greed for profit, keeping prices as high as possible instead of learning to share with others, making the unnecessary, fat-cat middle-men rich while making the certification laws unattainable by low income small farmers, are still the rules of thumb.

    The rapidly ensuing ramifications of Peak Oil & Gas (one of which is the fast decline of chemical fertilizers) and the resultant loss of electricity and the global collapse of financial markets – already beginning now – should hopefully restrict these greedy agri-business tycoons from cornering the organic market and force the entire world to adopt a village-type, communal society where organic growing IS the standard way of life, without the need of high-cost, certifying agencies.

    Sincerely, Ganesa

  3. One correction is required that NRCOF, Ghaziabad is not in M.P. it is in U.P.

  4. Dodzi Dzidzornu says:

    we are farming company based in Ghana, Africa and have thousands of acres of land ready to be developed by any interested persons or companies. we are also thinking of joint venture farming depending on the agreement that will be entered.

    we write to seek your outfit if ready to do such investments or enter joint venture farming in Africa, precisely Ghana.

    we are ready to send or give an answer on all that you may request from us.

    Thank you.

  5. Manoj says:

    The article is full of useful informations. I need information / consultancy for organic farming in Bihar and especially in herbiculture.

  6. Dear Sir,

    I agree in total that certification in India should be heavily subsidised by the government so that the poor Indian farmer is in a position to also get maximum advantages of globalisation.

    I am one who is interested to divert into organic farming.

    I would request your goodself to give many more such or relevent articles on organic farming.

    Regards,

    Indra Deshmukh

  7. citrox says:

    All those interested in Organic farming, citrox in India is offering both pre harvest and post harvest solutions.

    you can visit citrox.net

  8. Deepak says:

    Sir, Very soon there will be a Food crisis in India, because most of the Agricultural lands are converted to Real Estates, Increasing price of Chemical Fertilizers, lack of electricity, Natural calamities also destroy the Paddy Crop cultivation, Climatic & seasonal changes are drastic after Tsunami.

    But one day, our people will look into Agriculture, so the Agriculture Field will shine like IT & Oil industry in future. Organic farms rapidly increase in India / Tamil Nadu. But there is no proper support, there is no encouragement from Government or NGOs to promote Agriculture using Organic Fertilizers to improve the fertility of soil.

  9. various organisations as Go-Vigyan ANusandhan Kendra – Nagpur and kanpur goshala, Akola Go-shala, Pathmeda Go-shala (rajasthan Sanchor sist) are practising and training in organic farming. they would be glad to help.

    Anand 9819039244

  10. vixen says:

    this article is an excellent work. organic farming includes aquaculture also is ther any datas or statistical information pertaining to organic aquaculture in india?

  11. srini says:

    thank you for coming out point-blank about the present situation and the hurdles faced by small,medium farmers in india.
    would like to have more information about local ‘organic’ certifying bodies in south india (esp: tamilnad).

  12. ashima singh says:

    Sir, I want to appreciate your work. I also am doing my research work on organic farming because it became a very progressive area for agriculture as well as health point of view. With this regard I want some more information about organic farming in UttarPradesh.

  13. chetan s says:

    well it’s time for all of us to acquire knowledge and at least guide our poor uninformed farmers about organic farming, the certification required, how to get it etc., let us not lose to the the developed world to take a leap ahead of us, when we already are practicing organic farming by default !
    let us keep this forum alive by dscussing, solving the initial querries of the first start up venture.
    a great article.

  14. Dr.B.N.Dave says:

    I am a veterinary Doctor, work for organic farming/livestock in Gujarat. My ideology on said vedic application to get pure, nutrious, Satwik foods.
    Cow is only animal prooved best source to organic concept, foods,and spiritual aspect development.
    The ancient time the agriculture, environment and health sustaining due this concept.
    The global warming, health hazards of fast foods are burning problems of this century.
    So this concept can only save above problems and no side effects and other consequences to adopt it,
    India has a a major farmers, of small land holder strength with less resources.
    Every village needs the reliable technology to get more yield, marketing, irrigation, and traditionally crops to sustain.

  15. Pronojit Saha says:

    Indeed on of the best articles on organic farming that I have ever read. Cover all the facets of the same. I myself am a Director of agro-exports company and would like to help the organic farmers in every possible way. I think, this organic farming is the field where if we concentrate properly, can take India a long way forward on the world map.
    I urge the authors to help me in getting in touch with the concerned people for taking this forward. I really wish to contribute and benefit from this partnership.

  16. amar bains says:

    hi mr. saha

    i am from uk and currently in punjab and thinking to get into organic farming. need help in this field

    plz call me on 9878504774

    regards

  17. Dr. Govind Pandey says:

    Dear Sir,

    I found your article very informative and exact.
    But I need to know more. Kindly suggest some supplemented reading.

    I also want suggestions and guidelines from you regarding setting up of an Organic Farm, from the scratch.

    I have some land in Ballia – District of Uttar Pradseh, and I want to convert my farming practices to Organic. I do not know if I am already using some of them.

    Regards

    Dr. Govind Pandey

  18. Dr. Govind Pandey says:

    Dear Sir,

    I found your article very informative and exact.
    But I need to know more. Kindly suggest some supplemented reading.

    I also want suggestions and guidelines from you regarding setting up of an Organic Farm, from the scratch.

    I have some land in Ballia – District of Uttar Pradseh, and I want to convert my farming practices to Organic. I do not know if I am already using some of them.

    Regards

  19. ravee says:

    hi,

    Yes very good article. But one has to see how this write up translates in to action. If at all this gets implemented 50% , India is going to benefit tremendously.

    INDIA has good future in Agriculture. Next decade is for India.

    i am keen on being a particpant than a silent watcher. Wish me good luck.

    regards

  20. Hi

    Interested in organic farming as a good business. Can you share some of the good prospectus of this business being a profitable business.

    Need some inflow of inforamtion in this regard as well i.e. How much initial investment is needed, how much minimum land we require for this & other requirements to start this business.

    Your information will be of highly use to me.

    regards

    Aruninder Kaushal

  21. SUNIT SINGH says:

    Hi

    I have my own land in M.P. AND U.P., I am very much intrested in the Organic Farming. So from where I can get the basic knowledge about it or If you ll suggest me any book Reagarding Organic Farming to make a start in this field.

    Thanks

  22. Yogesh Kumar says:

    Dear All
    This is Yogesh working in SGS India Organic Programme as an Auditor – Organic Certification. If anybody needs the help regarding organic and organic certification. you can contact to me on yogesh.agron@gmail.com or 09818438051.
    After all it is very good article. if some of the person like you want then this area can acheive its goal very soon in India.
    Thanks and Regards
    Yogesh
    09818438051

  23. mukesh says:

    hello everybody AND

    wish u all a very good luck
    For
    All those who wants to go organic
    ultimately its going to help our earth

    i am Msc in biotechnology and have left my phd
    now i want to pursue organic farming on my ancesteral land
    in UP
    it would be great help to me if anybody have anykind of suggestions
    ALL are welcome at
    Mukesh_kr@yahoo.com

  24. Brad Gottshall says:

    I recently graduated from college and am interested in the sustainability of India’s current agriculture and food system. I live in the US and had a small organic vegetable farm for 5 years prior to the USDA standard.
    I believe small farmers forming collectives and working together in their communities helps them remain profitable and sustainable. Small niche market with high profits are nice to think about, but feeding a community holds greater value for the country and earth.

    Organic is important, but the word is currently being used as a marketing tool, providing the farmer no more money then before and if the farmer is interested in USDA certification adding many more costs than a farmer can afford.

    Many farming in the US who sell all of their produce through small, weekly markets are not USDA certified, however they do not use chemical fertilizers or herbicides/pesticides in production…

    For me and many others, the certification means nothing as long as the farmer is connected to his product and uses only natural, sustainable farming techniques.

  25. raj kr.shukla says:

    sir,
    i am doing research on organic farming in u.p. i studied your material and thanks for this.
    i want your kind help,will you do so?

  26. Kailas Deodhar says:

    I think in India we must stop listening to the West to get any and all of our indigenous processes and products certified, as long as we sell all the produce in India itself. Also, this talk about standardizing is useless because no two regions in the world are ever same, no two people are same, so why should what they make be same? Why should their way of making be same?

  27. I R Dowlath says:

    Will somebody from Ballia or Ghazipur care to be my email friend. I am an Indian south african. Just wish to correspond with somebody from thet part of this world.

  28. Saumitra Mutsuddi says:

    I am a Civil Engineer ( 45 years old ) from Bangladesh , presently live in Dhaka. Worked for more than 20 years . I have been interested to shift my career from present civil engineering field ( worked in a few multi-national/international construction/consulting companies ) to organic farming business & lifestyle since 2000. So far , could not take final decison. But, recently decided to start something independently. I prefer the organic farming. So, it will be highly appreciated if any one can suggest me the way , how can I start something feasible organic farming. It means as I have no agriculture background, how do I get knowledge in a structred manner on production, marketing & finance.
    If there is any suitable institute/organization, would like to know where a short course is offered for new people without agriculture background.
    Please help me. My mail : saumitra.m@gemcongroup.com , Uttara, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

  29. RAKESH KUMAR says:

    Deear I R Dowlath,
    you can correspondence with me. on above mail address. I ‘ll be happy.
    Thanks.
    Rakesh

  30. vevek triveddi says:

    i totaly agree with this concept i have a big farm if some one expert in organic agriculture please help me
    regards
    vevek

  31. Inder Raj Dowlath says:

    Dear Rakesh,
    Whats your email address? mine is irdowlath@telkomsa.net Regards.
    I R Dowlath

  32. Reki says:

    I am keenly looking forward to help from anyone who can sincerely guide me about setting up an organic farm. Any reference material would be most helpful. Please keep in mind, that honestly, I have never done farming leave alone organic farming.

    BUT, after reading this article and finding this forum of discussion, I am very much encouraged to turn my dreams and my ideas into reality.

    Thank you

  33. Sanjiv Jain says:

    Dear Sir

    This article is really informative. We are a bunch of NRI’s presently residing in Bangladesh and are buying about 200 Acres of land in Jabalpur, M.P India. to start with. We are interested in organic farming. We require a consultant who can assist us to achieve our goal in doing organic farming

    Regards

  34. Niranjan Deshpande says:

    Wonderful information. I was told recently that 90% of indian farming is on Chemical technology, using harmful insecticised and pesticides, and hence to have a healthy life stlye use products from Amway !!! .. what these American marketing agencies do is follow a simple equation…. if 10 % of indian farms are Organically certificed means the rest, 90%, are using harmful chemicals…. which is totally incorrect.

    I would request someone with influence in politics and media to highlight this and give due credit to the farmers that they deserve so well !!

  35. varsha sawant says:

    Dear sir

    The artical is really very good regarding Organic Farming.As i am B.com graduate n interested in organic farming.but i dont have basic knowledge about this.i just want to know the crop list below organic farming & address of any Zonal Office in western Maharashtra in Kolhapur diastrict.Also i would like to know the goverment role in this field.

    I would like to hear from u soon here is my mail id varsha_s_sawant@yahoo.co.in

    Thanks & rgards
    varsha

  36. Vimi says:

    I am inierested in Organic farming. Can anybody guide me how to set up a farm?

  37. ajay meena says:

    Dear sir

    That artical is very good regading organic farming. sir i want to do start my business so please give me some idea how to do athorise from govt. sir i am student of MBA(Agri- business) from bhubaneswar(orissa)and i copelet 10+2 ,and BSc Agricultur bacground.i am from NCR resion.

  38. Tonmoy says:

    We would like to start a Organic poultry & dairy firm in Chittagong, Bangladesh.We require a consultant who can assist us to achieve our goal in doing organic farming. Please contact at tonmoy_bd79@yahoo.com

  39. Dr. MALLIKARJUN, Consultant, Third World Agriculture says:

    For those who want to start the agricultyre as organic farming I suggest first try non-organic for two years and gain your experaince of agriculture, those who already doing agriculture should know that returns in organic farming would not be more in initial period and should not get disapointd due to non marketing of produce or failing to get certified as still Indian population is at the mercy of food prices in choosing / buying organically produced goods. It is a matter of exportation first get the standerds of the client and then know tha agency where both of you can agree for certified results than start the organic farming

  40. Dr Shanti K. Sharma says:

    Dear Sir,

    I found your article very informative and exact.But some issues need to be tackled from AB.C..TO…….Z . In India, 60 percent OF CULTIVATED area is under rainfed farming.Fertiliser and pesticide consumption is very low and rain dependent.Recommended package of crop production are followed inermittently with poor knowledge base inspite of large number of training programmes by State governments.
    OF is knowledge intensive and require agribusiness mind.Therefore , only entrepreneurs will have the stack in the this sector.Cooperatve movement to benefit framers in present circumstances needs a lot of dedication and work on “out of business model”.

  41. KRB says:

    Iam interested in starting an Organic farm, i wish to have guidance regarding the basic issues like size of the farm, amount of investment, time horizon, tech inputs, etc

    kindly help and guide me

    yours,

    krb

  42. Dr.Gajanan Jog says:

    The article is informative to new comers in the area.A nice effort.To make it fruitfull and to initiate action on the part of the farming community please write and publish the addresses of the registration agencies to register a farm for organic cuiltivation . Also provide information on the agency providing training on organic farming practises in India particularly in the dry zones.

  43. stan bonagiri says:

    My name is stan bonagiri, I am working with organic cotton framres. I am very much agree with you, by deault the small and marginal famers are organic and they lack of information to market their precious products. As you rightly said Certification is another major hurdle to promote organic farming in India. Finding fair traders for small and marginal farmers is herculean task. And promoting bodies of organic farming are not able to market these organic products.

    Another major issue is the organic/ natural mannure. Introdcution of machinery into the agriculture, the size of the live stock is shrinking day by day. Because of environmentalists plants should not be cut, in these conditions natural mannure has become rare commodity.

    Tribal farmers or those who are far away from cities and towns are the real beneficiaries, if the certification and market problems are addressed

  44. Dhiraj says:

    Organic farming is the solution for many environmental problems incliding Global warming. I do encourage organic farming by consuming organic products.

    I have a farm of 25 Acres and I want to do oeganic farming. Th e location in Babra-Amareli District-Gujarat. Is there any body who can help my farmer to advice and make available all organic pest control means fro cotton, ground nut etc. I would appreciate your prompt response.

  45. ashwini says:

    I have a 3acre land in Ranchi. I wish to start farming( vegetables, fruits).I have no previous background in farming. Can anyone guide me and provide me viable suggestions.

  46. caglar keskin says:

    I live in a village and work in agriculturing. We use fertilizers and i try to read everything about them.
    This information is very useful for me. I also found another useful guide about fertilizers;

    http://agricultureguide.org/agriculture/organic/

  47. peio revuelta says:

    it is great

  48. Dr. SS Bhartiya says:

    There is great potential of organic farming in Banda.chitrakoot,mahoba,hamirpur,lalitpur and jhansi distt. of u.pstatemore t5han 30% of the cultivated area in these distt.is still cultivated without using fertilizers,insecticides &pesticides.Dry farming with traditional seeds and cultural practices are followed in this area since immamorable period.tradinional attitude,illiteracy,lack of exposer etc. are the drawbacks with the farmers.this area may be mile stone in producing organic food product if Govt. frame and execute aprogramme to exploitthe potential of organic production in this area.

  49. shivani says:

    hello sir…..

    this is a very interesting topic going on …. organic farming is really a boon to our country and soon we can go for sustainable agriculture in organic farming.
    green revolution has led to chaos in our agriculture as these use of chemicals and fertilizers is poisoning 25 million farmers every year.
    i am doing my MBA in organic agriculture and want to pursue my career in this field ….
    hope to listen from u soon for some help.

  50. pravin Mahajan says:

    Hi,
    I have a small piece of ancestrol land about 3 acres in Jalgaon district maharastra India I am looking at starting oprganic farming. Are there some institutes or companies or any NGO which give guidance or help in that matter

  51. Ashish Arya says:

    Hello
    I have a agriculture land of about 7 acres in Sitapur district Uttar Pradesh, India I am looking at starting oprganic farming. Are there some institutes or companies or any NGO which give guidance or help in that matter

  52. sanajy sharma says:

    Is advisable to invest in share farming?

  53. It is only anser to go for zero budget natural forming.

  54. Ramananda A M says:

    Only organic forming can solve the present day problems in agriculture.

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