India needs to create a time-bound strategy or vision document which will take into account sustainable development goals and organic practices to facilitate a holistic growth of the organic food sector, according to a report released by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) today.
The Survey highlights the critical need to establish a uniform standard and clearly lay out the labeling requirements, logo and punishment for fraudulent practices by unscrupulous traders through a comprehensive policy/guideline. In the absence of FSSAI guidelines for the domestic market, the growth of the sector is mired by fraudulence and malpractices such as selling inorganic products as organic and making the situation worse is the lack of a framework to penalize such offenses.
The report titled “Organic Farming in India: Status, Issues and Way Forward” has been co-authored by Arpita Mukherjee, Souvik Dutta, Tanu M. Goyal, Avantika Kapoor and Disha Mendiratta published by the Academic Foundation of ICRIER. The report was released by Amitabh Kant, Chief Executive Officer(CEO), NITI Aayog and Ashish Bahuguna, Chairperson, FSSAI.
On the occasion, Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog underlined the opportunities and challenges of organic sector and said that farmers and producers should meet the global standards and once they do that it would be easier to tap the potential of domestic markets as well.
On certification and standard issues, the CEO said that APEDA standards are globally accepted and export oriented. Therefore adhering to APEDA certification would fulfill the requirements of domestic standard also. “There is an urgent need to integrate small and marginal farmers who are doing organic farming with the markets,” he added.
Kant said, “India has long agriculture tradition and several regions which excel in organic farming. Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland are doing well. We need to push for organic farming in the Eastern part of India. Seeds and availability of planting material is the most limiting factor in organic agriculture. This is critical and once we are able to provide that then we will be able to produce consistent quality product, which is very important.”
Urging companies like Amway to promote organic inputs in India, Kant said, “More investment is required in organic seed breeding. The way forward is to have some role model farmers who are doing well in terms of organic. We need successful stories to replicate. We need to make the returns and economics between for organic farmer and others will emulate them.”
Kant said, “Economy of scale should be driving force for the growth of the sector. Once there are adequate number of organic farmers then we need to help them with marketing and other things such as training and on-farm demonstration and other supporting infrastructure. Public private partnership is required and in the initial stages some support is required for certification. The Mandi model in India pose a challenge for organic farmers as there is direct access to consumers is required. ’Green Shop’ at village level would provide direct access to the farmers.”
Ashish Bahuguna, Chairman, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said that main challenge to agriculture sector is to protect the soil nutrients which are declining rapidly. We need to restore essential nutrients of soil and organic farming can play major role in this.”
Bahuguna further said, “Organic farming is a very effective instrument to promote the idea of sustainability and hopefully to increase the wealth and prosperity of the farmers. Most policies in agriculture tend to be consumer centric and hopefully this report will correct the biases of agriculture sector in general and organic farming in particular. Very reputed brands and retail outlets are stocking organic products and the consumers actually do not know, which certified or authentic organic products are.”
Commenting on the findings of the Report, Rajat Kathuria, Director and Chief Executive, ICRIER said, “India has the world’s largest number of organic producers. With a comprehensive policy package our study found that organic food sector has a potential to grow at a rate of 20 percent, attract domestic and foreign investment, create entrepreneurship, generate employment and help to double farmers’ income by 2022.”
Highlighting the findings of the Survey, Arpita Mukherjee, Co-Author of the report said, “To attract foreign investment in this sector, India should have a comprehensive policy and uniform standard for organic encompassing the domestic market, exports and imports. A comprehensive policy will help India to sign equivalence arrangements and be a part of global organic supply chain. As of date, India only has export regulations. The FSSAI is trying to develop the domestic guidelines. We hope that this report will help the FSSAI to design a policy that will benefit the country.”
Sharing the global best practices in the sector on this occasion, Anshu Budhraja, CEO, Amway India highlighted Amway’s role in the sector globally and said, “The Indian government has taken several policy initiatives to promote organic farming and we are completely aligned with the government’s philosophy of promoting organic farming in the country as it will help in doubling farmers income and ensuring Indian consumers get quality organic produce.”
The Report underscores the urgent need for creation of a single nodal agency for organic sector. Majority of the companies surveyed concurred to a recommendation to appoint the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare as the nodal agency for developing standards and regulating organic practices in India.