Farmers in India are sticking to conventional agriculture as costs of transition to organic farming still high.
Bangalore, February 2, 2018: Although India is the country with the highest number of organic farmers with 6,50,000 farmers practicing it, most farmers in the country stick to conventional agriculture patterns.
Out of the total land under farming, only 0.4 per cent land is under organic farming. This can be attributed to the fact that subsidies for farmers to alleviate higher production are low and labor costs during the transition period are high.
Sowmya Shree, farmer from Mandya and owner of Sasya Shyamalay farm, has been practicing organic farming for the past six years. She said that she practices bio-farming with limited use of chemical fertilizers as shifting to full-fledged organic farming is difficult due to few schemes and facilities.
Advocates of organic farming have pushed their cause by emphasizing the environmental benefits of the minimized use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Schemes which act as a form of compensation for the farmer during the conversion period, which lasts almost two to three years, are limited.
It is also after these three years that the farms are certified, which is a long a wait for the farmers.
Srinath Setty, founder of Hosachiguru which is an agricultural asset management company based in Bangalore, said that the scientific organic farming methods are viable for a large farmer who can invest into resources that understand appropriate use of the inputs.
Since the average Indian farmer doesn’t have the knowledge of these scientific methods, he says that the traditional organic farming method is a viable option as it involves fewer investments in terms of inputs.
However, he is quick to mention that traditional farming methods have their limitations for mono crops (growing the same crop in the same land year after year). in which Most farmers grow mono crops currentlydue to the green revolution and since inputs are low, the output is low as well.
Farmers who switch to organic farming report loss of yields due to pest infestation and lower yields as compared to conventional farming. There has also been limited research in the development of cheaper organic manure for Indian farmers to switch to an environmentally conscious alternative.
Mohammad Gous Ippteri, a farmer from Gokak in Belagavi district, has taken farmland on lease to practice organic farming.
He mentions that the cost incurred by the farmer on manure is high, especially if the farmer in question has very little land under agriculture.
“You need almost ten trolleys of manure for one acre of land. One trolley consists of about six to seven tonnes of manure and each trolley costs about Rs. 2000 to 3000,” said Ippteri. This means that a farmer is spending a minimum of Rs. 20,000 only on manure for one acre of land.
Dr Prabhakar Rao, owner of Hariyalee seeds and a big promoter of chemical free farming confirmed this situation. He instead mentioned natural farming as a viable option for the Indian farmer as the cost of producing manure would be much lower.
“Farm yard manure employed in organic farming, which requires over six month to a year to be ready for use, can be easily replaced by manure which is produced for natural farming.
This process in preparing this manure involves increasing the microbial content in the manure which release nutrients to the soil,” said Rao.
He also mentioned that in natural farming, you can make a piece of farmland chemical free within six months and the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), a decentralized organic farming certification system, prescribes this practice.
He concluded by saying that although the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) have been of help, there is lots that needs to be done especially by the decision makers at the top.
In the 2018 Budget, for successful implementation for organic farming, cluster based farming is set to be promoted which will be linked to markets.
However, this scheme is to be promoted only in the North East and hilly states of the country.