Kerala

Lessons from Sri Lanka on shift to organic farming

Kerala is bringing around 82,000 hectares of farmland under organic cultivation.

Kerala is bringing around 82,000 hectares of farmland under organic cultivation. | Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

One question that echoed in the academic circles of the State in the past few weeks was whether Kerala has anything to learn from the economic crisis in Sri Lanka. Finance Minister K.N. Balagopal openly admitted that the State can draw lessons from the economic crisis in the neighbouring country, which is considered as an extension of Kerala on many counts.

There are reports that the ill-advised policy of switching to organic farming, shunning chemical fertilizers, has led to a steep fall in agricultural production and export earnings from tea in Sri Lanka. Kerala is also on the same page to some extent as it is bringing around 82,000 hectares of farmland under organic cultivation, taking a leaf out of the chemical-free natural farming promoted by Subhash Palekar, often termed the father of zero-budget natural farming (ZBNF).

According to the data with the Agriculture department, out of the target of 82,000 hectares set under the project titled ‘Subhiksham Surakshitham - Bharatiya Prakartik Krishi Padhathi’ (Kerala Agro Ecology Based Biodiversity Conservation), farming was switched to the organic mode in 57,000 hectares by March 2022, spending around ₹22.27 crore, of which 40% was borne by the State government and the rest by the Centre.

P. Indira Devi, agriculture economist and former director of research, Kerala Agricultural University, said “I will not say that the State should completely switch to organic farming all of a sudden without taking note of the technological advances in modern farming. But the State has the scope to experiment with organic farming, imbibing lessons from scientific methods. Whenever we adopt a new mode of cultivation, the long-term socio and ecological impact has to be considered.”

‘Negligible acreage’

Vijayasree S.B., assistant director, organic farming cell of the Agriculture department said, “the acreage fixed for conversion to organic farming is negligible compared to the total acreage in the State. When there is 26 lakh hectares of crop area in Kerala, 82,000 hectares is not a big deal. Moreover, the area converted into organic farming has started to yield results.”

‘Revenue generation must’

Former Indian diplomat in China, Muraleedharan Nair, said that be it agriculture policy or tourism or NRI remittance dependence, the State had a lot to learn from the Lankan crisis. “Even infra projects proposed by the Kerala government, like the SilverLine semi-high-speed rail project or metro projects, have much in common with the Colombo port city project and the airport project at Hambantota in Lanka. The State has to focus on revenue-generating projects now. Otherwise, we will be forced to borrow from abroad for debt servicing,” said Mr. Nair.


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Printable version | Apr 4, 2022 10:30:08 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/lessons-from-lanka-on-shift-to-organic-farming/article65287157.ece