Organic Farming- what is it?
“Organic” means “pertaining to, or derived from living beings”. Organic as a word can be used to refer to anything that is natural, relating to the compounds of carbon or to 100% natural products.
Organic farming refers to the farming practices and systems in which organic products such as home-made manure, animal and plant wastes, crop leftovers and aquatic refuse are used instead of chemicals and pesticides, so as to maintain the health of the soil while ensuring the crop is pure. It is an ages old practice in India, one that has been passed down through generations of farmers in the country. Use of organic wastes in farming releases biodegradable material and crop-friendly microbes which return the natural composition of soil as well as keep the environment pollution free and safe. The basic principle behind organic farming is to get high quality and quantity of production without harming the natural components of the soil or disturbing them with synthetic products in any way.
Crops grown with the help of artificial enhancers and fertilizers perhaps mature faster and help a farmer economically, but there are some downsides to them. For instance, studies have found that the presence of high levels of chemical pesticides in the soil can cause the plants to absorb them, which could be detrimental or even lethal to plant health. If these components make way to fruits and vegetables, consumption could be potentially fatal for humans.
As more and more become aware of these facts, the demand for organically farmed products increases. Organic farming, therefore has a lot of scope for growth, and especially so in a country like India, where a large percentage of rural dwellers are farmers.
Organic farming in India and its future:
Among countries practicing organic farming, India has good numbers: 6,50,000 organic producers, 699 processors, 669 exporters and 7,20,000 hectares under cultivation. But when seen from an absolute point of view, total land under organic farming is an underwhelming 0.4%, which means there is a long way to go.
In 2016, the Indian organic export and domestic market grew by 30 and 40 per cent respectively, and will uphold mainly due to a growing number of health conscious consumers. However, growth will not be without challenges. The main challenge is pricing: since organic farming takes a little more time and hardwork than inorganic farming and is relatively small in volume, it is priced much higher relatively. Those who aren’t financially well-off wouldn’t spend so much on food products. This makes organic farming economically unviable.
Also, with the small quantity of production, organically farmed products hardly meet the demands of the customers, putting further inflationary pressure on its food products. There is, in simpler words, a huge demand-supply disparity. This can be tackled by making organic farming a well-known and accepted form of farming among larger farmers, because they make up a bulk of the food product suppliers in the economy. Specified farmer guidance costs, higher processing and inventory prices, and increased packaging, logistics and distribution costs add to the price of end products. But these are all conditions that can be handled once organic farming becomes a large-scale activity in the economy.
There has been a widespread discussion on the sustainability of organic farming. Though there is lower yield, these farms are more lucrative and environment- friendly, equipped with several ecosystem services, various social benefits and bring nutritious foods with relatively less pesticide residues compared to traditional farming. Biologically managed soils release less carbon dioxide per hectare in a year than traditionally cultivated soils. New studies indicate that using the best management practices in organic systems over a long period of time can produce equal yields, or even outperform those of traditional systems.
Therefore, from this factual analysis, it is quite clear that organic farming can and does have a lot of scope for growth and bright future in India. India has all the factors required to make organic farming large-scale and profitable as well as beneficial not just to the economy but to the consumers’ health as well.