25,000 HP farmers go organic

Better option

Going organic is the new mantra in Himachal Pradesh, with over 25,000 farmers cashing in on the high demand and remunerative prices of organic food, be it fruits, vegetables or pulses.

“We are promoting organic farming to make agriculture a sustainable, environment-friendly and remunerative proposition," agriculture director J C Rana said.

To promote organic farming and crop diversification, the government last year launched a Rs 321 crore project with the assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, he added.

The official data says around 25,000 farmers in the state are engaged in organic farming. The state is producing 16 lakh tonnes of organic manure against the requirement of 20 lakh tonnes. It has 400,000 vermi-compost units, Rana said.

Scientific validation
Agriculture is the mainstay of people in the hill state, providing direct employment to about 71 per cent population. To facilitate organic farming, the government, last December, announced the creation of an agency for scientific validation and certification of organic produce.

Interestingly, farmers in the landlocked valleys like Pangi in Chamba district and Dodra Kwar in Shimla district have never used pesticides and fertilisers for growing crops. "The demand for organic pulses is quite good in big cities," said Vinay Sharma, an organic rajma grower in Rampur. "It is, of course, a profitable business but the growers should be encouraged to substitute chemical fertilisers with organic manure," he added.

Vegetable grower Shyam Singh of Bilaspur town said the organic produce, currently, is not very high and the farmers are facing problems in its marketing. There is hardly any agency that certifies that the produce is organic. To overcome the problems, several fruit, pulses and vegetable growers have come together and formed the Himachal Organic Farmers Forum to promote the eco-friendly cultivation.

Gopal Mehta, president of the forum, said that by adopting organic means "we are able to cut more than 70 per cent of the cultivation cost". It has also helped to improve the fertility of the soil and the yield has increased," he added.

By adopting organic means we are able to cut more than 70 per cent of the cultivation cost. It has helped to improve the fertility of the soil and the yield has also increased," president of the forum,Gopal Mehta said.

The forum has 3,000 members who together own 2,600 hectares of land. Most of the farmers who opted for organic farming belong to Shimla, Kullu, Mandi and Kangra districts. Mehta, who started cultivating apple and other stone fruits by using environment-friendly techniques in the late 1990s, believes organic farming is the only way for fruit growers to make their presence felt in the global market.

He said organic produce is fetching, 10 to 20 per cent, higher prices even in the domestic market. The forum has contacted Aurangabad-based Ecocert India for certification of its farm produce.

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