Help with transitioning to organic farming and better marketing as well as market access are the key issues that need to be tackled to scale up organic farming in the country, the latest report of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), 'Market Access for Organic and Natural Produce', says. While transition is getting more traction of late, the report says, not much effort is afoot to create better markets.
"Most ongoing initiatives focus on the transition through capacity-building and incentives. But a lot needs to be done to provide better markets through a structured approach," said Amit Khurana, director, sustainable food systems programme, CSE on June 21, in a webinar organised to release the report.
The report includes six selected case studies from three key stakeholder groups farmer-producer organisations (FPO), retail corporations and state governments, he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Rajashekar Reddy Seelam, founder and managing director of Sresta Natural Bioproducts Private Ltd, Hyderabad, said building trust in organic produce by ensuring that only genuine items is marketed is essential for the success of the sector.
Seelam's successful steering of Sresta's organic brand 24 Mantra is one of the case studies of the report.
Explaining the strategy, Seelam said, Farmers are at the core of our business. Initially it was difficult to convince farmers to adopt organic farming as during the first three-to-four years yield reduces. Benefits are visible only later. Keeping this in mind, we identify a location where farmers are pro-organic or use less chemicals. We have 100-plus trained field associates stationed in our project team to guide and support farmers and agronomists in the system.
G V Ramanjaneyulu, executive director of Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad, who is also in the board of Sahaja Aharam Producer Company Limited, a federation of 19 FPOs, talked about the role of FPOs in scaling up organic farming.
"FPOs certainly help, more so if federated, as they have the potential to augment resources, help more farmers grow food organically, leverage technology, bring efficiency in systems and help farmers earn more through shorter supply chains by bringing producer and consumer together, he said.
Sahaja, formed in 2014, helps over 9,000 farmers in 11 districts in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to grow food organically at low cost. It is also part of the six case studies featured in the CSE report.
Meanwhile, Akash Badave, CEO of Bhoomgadi Organic Farmers Produce Company, Chhattisgarh, said his FPO managed to find its unique selling point in the products growing exclusively in the remote Dhantewade region of Chhattisgarh. The CSE report elaborates on how Bhoomgadi helped over 2,700 organic farmers from 122 villages overcome market-access limitations due to their remoteness.
Addressing the webinar, Badave stressed that consumer education is crucial to take the organic movement forward. We need to intensely work with the consumers. Actually, that is going to be the key. A lot of work until now has been done with the farmers. Now, we need to work very closely with the consumers, aggregating consumers, changing the behaviour, changing the attitudes and expectations, added Badave.
For Dinesh Balam, state coordinator of Odisha Millet Mission, which was among the case studies done for the CSE report, there is no point in trying to redesign a system without specifically addressing the existing problems. When it comes to millet, one of the criticisms is that millets are not cleaned properly. There's always mud on the surface of ragi, for instance. To address this, we looked at the institutions that are there at village-level that can help farmers to ensure proper cleaning post harvesting.
"Every village has women self-help group. So, what we do in our programme is that we empower these women to run post-harvesting centres. We supply them the needed equipment so farmers can process post harvesting at village level. The other question when it comes to millet is that how we increase household consumption. In Odisha, we engage women's groups again to create an awareness among end users.
Manoj Gupta, principal extension specialist, state project implementing unit of Prakritik Kheti Khushhal Kisan Yojana (PK3Y), Himachal Pradesh, said one of the things that they realised during the implementation of their programme is that there is a need to simplify certifications, as too many confuse consumers. The CSE report also highlights how PK3Y Himachal has come up with a simpler certification system specifically for natural farming.
According to Gupta, Himachal tried to make a certification methodology that is also scalable with other certification systems operational at the national and international level. This self-assessed certification mechanism (Certified Evaluation Tool for Agriculture Resource Analysis-Natural) has been made accessible through a web portal since October 2022, he added.
More than 11,000 farmers have submitted the information online and around 6,000 farmers have been certified by the online platform created for this innovative certification, said Gupta.
The report also has a chapter on BigBasket, an online supermarket that sells products from 70 different organic brands, including its own BB Royal Organic and BB Fresho Organic.
The event was attended not only by farmers and FPOS, but also other stakeholders involved in organic farming.
Consumer awareness and Direct-to-Consumer channels need to be developed to help farmers get a better price realisation, farm-to-fork professional Bhisham Thakkar pointed out during the session.
Thangapandian, who runs the NGO Farm India in Trichy, which pushes for collective farming as well as teaches enterprise skills to farmers, said the biggest takeaway from the report is that if the farmers want to get a good price for their produce, be it in organic or even chemical farming, they have to band together as collectives.
It is impossible for small farmers especially, to expect a fair price for the products if they are standing alone, Thangapandian said.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)