At a time when the area under organic cultivation in the country is yet to cross 1 per cent of the total agricultural land, the small hilly State of Sikkim has stolen the show as its entire agriculture is set to go organic by 2015.
The State has only around 60,000 hectares of farmland and already 40 per cent of it is under organic cultivation.
“What is important here is that 40 per cent of the State’s farmland is under certified organic cultivation. We have a stringent mechanism to monitor and certify the genuineness of organic produce,” Sikkim State Cooperative Supply and Marketing Federation Ltd. (Simfed) managing director Brijendra Swaroop said on Thursday.
He was talking to The Hindu on the sidelines o f the ongoing international organic trade fair here.
As part of its plan to make the entire State take to organic cultivation by 2015, Sikkim has banned the use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides from 2003 itself. Going organic has twin advantages of protecting the health of people by avoiding chemical fertilizer and pesticides, and getting premium value for the produce, according to Mr. Swaroop. “As we are a small State, the landholdings of our farmers are also very small. Hence we need to maximise agricultural income to ensure them a decent living. Organic farming has come as an appropriate option for us as we can send our produce to niche markets not just in India but also abroad to get maximum returns for farmers.”
What is novel about Sikkim’s experiment is that it is using organic farming as a tool to bring about economic development of farmers. A systematic marketing and procurement network has been put in place by setting up the apex body of Simfed, which provides forward and backward linkages.
“Simfed has about 170 grass-roots level multipurpose cooperative societies which buy agricultural produce from farmers on their doorstep. After setting aside certain quantum for domestic consumption, the remaining produce is either sent to niche markets in other States or foreign countries. A premium of about 25 per cent is offered to organic produce with respect to prices,” Mr. Swaroop explained.
“The marketing and payment system is transparent. We have a policy of making payments within 15 days of receiving consignments,” he said.
The main crops under organic cultivation in Sikkim include cardamom, orange, ginger, different varieties of beans, paddy, baby corn and sweet corn.
Organic farming is adding to the tourism potential of the State and providing additional income to farmers as the Sikkim government has also taken up organic tourism. Nature tourism is being promoted by setting up home stays in villages that have been declared “completely organic”. Under this concept, tourists are served organic food and also taken on a visit to fields where organic cultivation has been taken up, according to Mr. Swaroop, who added that tourists can also buy organic produce directly from farmers.
Sikkim has around 60,000 hectares of farmland and 40 p.c. of it is now under organic cultivation
Organic farming is being used as a tool to bring about economic development of farmers