KOCHI: Organic farming is losing ground in the state as farmers await proper support from the government.
While private organic farm owners are struggling to keep up with the growing demand for their products, officials in the Agriculture Department claim that lack of premium pricing and marketing facilities were deterrent to the trend. “Although organic farming is native to the coastal areas in Kochi, farmers started opting for commercial farming methods because of the high yield and higher profit. For farmers who struggle to make ends meet, this proved to be a highly welcome trend,” noted an official in the Principal Agriculture Office, Ernakulam. “Moreover, for labelling a product as organic, it has to be certified by the agencies concerned. The process not only demands a huge amount, but also needs a conversion period of three years.
Even after all this is done, organic products fail to produce satisfying profits,” she added. But private organic farm owners call these concerns baseless. “It is utter foolishness to say that organic farming does not yield good results. I’ve been in this field for over 18 years and my farm yields as much produce as is required,” said Ambrose Kooliyath, who co-owns Lumiere Organic Farm and chain of organic restaurants. His partner Manjunath P R added, “As for the transition period, it is required for the soil to regain its natural balance again. We cannot expect overnight success while converting a farmland into organic. We have to slowly reduce the input of chemical fertilisers and pesticides while increasing the use of organic manure.”
Supporters of organic farming methods point out that the lackadaisical attitude of the government is the reason for reluctance on the farmers’ side. “A major threat faced by the organic farming sector in Kerala is from the fact that the government does not give priority to the organic farming sector and fails to give sufficient support and subsidies to such farmers,” noted Ambrose.
“If private organic farms are able to earn good profits by creating their own marketing strategies, why can’t the government provide a platform for all farmers to start returning to the age-old organic farming tradition? Why doesn’t the government fix a minimum support price for organic food products just as it does for the commercially-produced ones?” he demanded. “Creating a market especially for organic food products might sound easy, but we need people to buy these products which cost more than their commercially-produced counterparts,” opined an officer at the Principal Agriculture Office.
A R S Vadhyar, founder of Yasoram Charitable Trust and a pioneer in the field of organic farming in Kochi, said it was an invalid reason. “I sell only organic vegetables in my supermarket and I just cannot seem to cope up with the demand.
Kochiites are becoming more aware about the harmful effects of using chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides; and hence, are increasingly opting for organic food products,” he said.
Manjunath said to adopt a completely organic diet, a family of four might have to spend a maximum of `1,000 more than what they usually spend on food per month.
“I feel that the extra cost would be an investment towards our health considering the amount we would have to spend on hospital bills otherwise,” he quipped. “Returning to organic farming techniques is the need of the hour. The government cannot keep ignoring it for long,” said Ambrose.