Dr. Parveen Kumar, Dr. R. K Arora
All over the world, people have now realised that the chemical intensive agricultural production is not sustainable in the long run. They are now getting more of health conscious. The ill effects of the chemical intensive green revolution have now come to the fore. Many families in different villages of Punjab are now suffering from life threatening diseases. Land has degraded and the water has become very toxic and this toxicity has now entered the food chain resulting in a serious damage to agro ecology. Much thrust is now laid on the organic agriculture production that largely avoids or excludes the use of chemical inputs.
In September 2005 in Adelaide, Australia, the General Assembly of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM), a worldwide umbrella organisation for organic agriculture movement passed a motion to establish a succinct definition of Organic Agriculture. After almost three years of work by a designated task force, a definition reflecting the four Principles of Organic Agriculture in a succinct way was adopted in Vignola, Italy. The definition states that, ‘Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse affects’. Organic agriculture combines tradition; innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved. It is a system that relies on ecosystem management rather than external agricultural inputs. It is also a system that begins to consider potential environmental and social impacts by eliminating the use of synthetic inputs, such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, veterinary drugs, genetically modified seeds and breeds, preservatives, additives and irradiation. These are replaced with site-specific management practices that maintain and increase long-term soil fertility and prevent pest and diseases.
All across the globe there are about 2.7 million organic producers of which India has the largest no. of 8, 35, 000 producers among them. If we talk of the total area under organic agriculture in the world, it stands at 57.8 million hectares which is 1.2 per cent of the total agricultural land. In India organic agriculture is practiced in 1.49 million hectares which is less than 1 percent (0.8 per cent) of total agricultural land. In 2016-17, India produced 11.80 lakh tonne of certified organic produce which was 38 per cent more than the production of 8.53 lakh tonne in 2013-14. Under Parampragat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), Organic agriculture is done through the clusters. In State of Jammu and Kashmir, organic agriculture is being carried out in 28 clusters covering an area of 560 hectares and involving 1400 beneficiaries. The state of Uttarakhand has the highest 585 clusters covering an area of 11700 hectares involving 29250 beneficiaries.
The irrigated belt of Jammu region of the State of Jammu and Kashmir is blessed with a very fertile soil which has the distinction of producing high quality Basmati rice with a unique aroma. Also called the ‘Queen of Fragrance’, this variety grown in Jammu region is also known for its long grains. As per the estimates about 50,000 hectares of land in the state is under cultivation of Basmati of which 40,000 hectares fall in Jammu District alone and about 10,000 hectares falls in Samba and Kathua. About 1 lakh metric tonnes of exotic varieties of basmati rice is produced in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts. About 30,000 metric tonnes of it is exported every year. There is a lot of scope in growing organic Basmati as the chemical consumption in the State is very low as compared to the adjoining states. In Jammu and Kashmir approximately 70 kilogram of chemical fertilizers is used per hectare as compared to 200 kilogram per hectare in Punjab. In the international market food products having even slightest of the chemicals are rejected. The rejection of Indian Basmati has also been reported a no. of times at the international level. This is mainly due to the high amount of chemicals in the Basmati produced and also due to the grains falling short of international standard of minimum length. The milers and export houses in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are showing greater interest in the basmati produced in the state after a series of rejection by West Asian markets due to high pesticide content in the produce. Also due to the introduction of pest resistant Ranbir Basmati, RR-564, Pusa Basmati No. 1 and Pusa Basmati No. 1121, the need for heavy use of pesticides have been reduced.
Organic Basmati production in the State started a few years back in Jammu region with the Department of Agriculture had started growing Basmati organically on 200 hectares in villages around Suchetgarh in the RS Pura sector, about 35 kilometers west of Jammu. A study by Dr. Rakesh Nanda and others in 2013 from Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Jammu also revealed that there were over 5,000 farm families growing basmati rice organically in 157 villages of Jammu, Samba, and Kathua districts of Jammu division of J&K on 4,900 ha of land. The average size of these farms is 2-4 ha; the average area under basmati rice is 1-2 ha per farm. Since then the area and no. of farm families going for organic basmati production has surely risen. Although the yield decreases initially for few years, but it is compensated with the higher returns that organic Basmati fetches in the market. The fertile land in and around irrigated belt of Jammu region can be explored for production of organic Basmati rice. Through development of proper linkages the markets can be created for organic basmati growers where they can sell their produce. The higher returns from the produce will definitely motivate them to bring more and more area under organic basmati.
The global market for organic farming has already crossed the $90 billion mark and is still growing. The country is fast emerging as the hub of organic farming. It is also being driven by the passion of many health conscious young highly qualified minds that have left their high salaried jobs only to produce poison free food. What is needed is to create awareness among the masses. The extension personals of the state agriculture and allied departments and the agricultural universities can fill this gap and motivate the farming community to take on this for a better world.
(The authors are from Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Jammu; can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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