India plans 50 model organic farms

Friday, 29 November 2002, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: India, which has about 13,000 hectares under organic production, is eyeing a bigger share of the global market in such products.

"India is planning to set up 50 model organic farms to act as live demonstration centres on organic farming," Agriculture Minister Ajit Singh said here Thursday inaugurating the International Conference on Organic Products.

"Four of the model farms have already been set up in the northeast."

India's annual exports of organic products are worth 30 million. The global market in this category is estimated to be worth $100 billion by 2006.

No chemicals are utilised in organic farming and minimum inputs like organic fertilisers and pesticides are required, bringing down costs while ensuring better soil conservation, experts at the conference stated.

The three-day conference-cum-exhibition has been organised jointly by the Indian government in association with the Bio-Dynamic Association of India and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).

The event will see networking between delegates from 28 countries and seven state governments as India seeks to capitalise on its strength in organic food production.

For greater thrust and return to organic farming, India has allocated 920 million for the next five years to ensuring higher quality production, promotion, market development and regulation of organic farming, said Singh.

Several states like Uttaranchal, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Sikkim and Assam are allocating more land to environment-friendly and sustainable agriculture, disclosed Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh and ministerial representatives from other states.

Since October last year, India has made it mandatory for all organic products to be certified for exports.

"Studies indicate that the demand for organic products is expected to outgrow production in developed nations leaving room for developing countries like India to access major global markets," said Singh.

According to Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Rajiv Pratap Rudy, the current global market size is just around $25 billion.

In July, India had launched a special logo for all its organic products for export. Horticulture products, tea, coffee, cashew, spices, fruits, basmati are among the organic products India is exporting.

Despite its quality, India is finding it difficult to penetrate certain major markets like the European Union and Japan, said Gunnar Rundgren, president of IFOAM, which is holding its annual board meeting here on the sidelines of the meet.

"Many Indian organic products are not accepted in the E.U. and Japan. Through a working group set up in association with the FAO and UNCTAD we are trying to bring about harmonisation in standards," Rundgren told IANS.

"We hope to get India to participate in the preparatory meeting in December and look forward to creating an international platform for setting standards and convincing the E.U. and Japan to adhere to the set standards," he said.

IFOAM represents around 700 global organisations involved in organic farm product research, production and marketing.

Rundgren said efforts are also on to reduce regulation and make the internationally acceptable certification procedure less cumbersome and costly.

"Currently, half the premium cost of organic products is certification related, and not quality related, costs. This is to the disadvantage of developing countries where the production costs are low but fixed certification costs are high."

"We are promoting group certification. With farms forming a cooperative or with an NGO carrying out internal checks on quality, it will help bring down costs."

Source: IANS
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