NATIONAL

Plan to promote organic farming

NEW DELHI Aug. 10. The Agriculture Ministry is all set to launch a national programme to promote organic farming as part of an exercise to curb the use of chemical pesticides and make agricultural activity more eco-friendly.

The scheme, which has already got the approval of the Planning Commission in-principle, envisages a number of measures to make organic farming a viable proposition so that farmers are encouraged to take it up as a preferred method of cultivation.

The scheme envisages the development of a special marketing system for the produces of `organic' farmers, with proper safeguards to ensure that there was no mixing up of organic and non-organic products.

Under the scheme, a national-level institute would be set up to formulate standards, provide training to farmers and help establish units for the production of bio-pesticides and other organic inputs. It would also oversee the process of accreditation and certification of organic products.

Giving details of the scheme, senior officials said that apart from producing chemicals-free crops, it would help improve the level of major and minor nutrients in the soil. This is of importance especially in the rice, wheat belt of the Indo-Gangetic plains.

Over the years, there has been an alarming decline in the micronutrient levels in the region because of the indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and limited use of organic manures.

The scheme, they admitted, would, however, not be able to replace the use of chemical fertilizers totally.

The installed capacity for bio-fertilizers is just about 18,000 tonnes. In contrast, the consumption of chemical fertilizers have been hovering around 17 million tonnes per annum.