Fortunately, in this decade, synthetic pesticides like dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), endrin, and others entered the market. Another spectacular discovery was that of the high-yielding hybrid wheat and rice. The high-yielding wheat was discovered by Norman Borlaug (Nobel Prize winner) and was rapidly adopted by India largely due to the pioneering work of Dr Swaminathan and MV Rao.Swaminathan is remembered as the ‘father of Green Revolution’ and Rao as the “wheat man of India”. With hybrid varieties and synthetic fertilisers and insecticides, the production of rice per acre increased to 40 quintals from 10 quintals, a tremendous victory in fighting hunger. There were also some setbacks during the 1960s and 70s. India’s budget (read agriculture) is dependent on the monsoon season, as George Curzon pointed out in 1905. Due to drought from 1964-70, India had to import food and became heavily dependent on the United States for wheat supplies under the Public Law 480 agreement. At one time, we were eagerly waiting for the arrival of a ship full of wheat at the Mumbai port. The late former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri gave a call to “miss a meal” on Monday nights as a part of the Jai Kisan movement. Green Revolution Ultimately, the Green Revolution was initiated. The theme of the initiative was to boost food grains production of rice and wheat using any method and at any cost. Success followed many setbacks. Biologist-turned-science-writer Rachel Carson published a seminal book called Silent Spring, focused on the harmful effects of pesticides, primarily DDT on our health and environment. DDT was found to be non-biodegradable and its remnants were traced everywhere — in our body, soil and water. Studies showed its effects on liver and kidneys, including causing cancers. Scientists rapidly found alternatives and advocated Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is a need-based use of pesticides, alternating crops, intercropping as well as usage of bird perches where birds rest, detect insects on crops and eat them. After DDT, other insecticides like monocrotophos, metasystox, cypermethrin came into use but these are equally harmful to humans, livestock and fish. The “turn to nature” to get pesticide-free food has become a priority. The order of the day is organic farming — natural farming or zero-budget agriculture — which is welcome and most wanted in the agriculture sphere.
Not without setbacksThe first and foremost sound solution is the usage of organic manures from compost, cow dung and ploughing and mulching of leguminous plants. Several plant-based botanical pesticides were discovered. Neem oil, neem kernel extracts, which contain azadirachtin, is the active principle discovered by Germans, the United Kingdom and US. Neem revived the hope of using harmless pesticides but its availability is very low. Several commercial formulations were available in India. Karanj oil (Karanjin active principle), several leaf extracts like Adathoda and garlic-buds aqueous extracts are found to be effective to some extent as active repellants but they cannot replace synthetic pesticide. There is a growing awareness in India to cultivate the crops by natural fertilisers such as cow dung, leguminous green manures, compost, vermicomposting and biopesticides fungi, bacteria and virus-based pesticides like Bacillus thuringiensis, Pseuedomonas aegle, Trichoderma verdi. These bio-pesticides are chiefly produced from diseased insects and soil, among other things. However, it only has limited use on too few fruit and vegetable crops. The problem with the bio-pesticide production is that it is confined to a small industry with no standardisation and doubtful efficacy. Several symposia are held by non-governmental organisations, ideal farmers and governments. Many agricultural magazines hail the miracles of higher yields from organic farming. Particular mention should be made about jeevamrutham — a recently designed concoction called Ramabanam, which gained prominence. These concoctions are made from jaggery, ginger, cow milk, cow curd, cow dung, cow urine, asafoetida. All the ingredients are mixed and fermented for a week, diluted and sprayed on crops. It is claimed that the product can be used as a fertiliser and a pesticide. The farmers who experimented were quick to endorse the products. Their studies on organic farming presented in symposia on organic farming, however, were confined to few vegetables like tomatoes over a limited area. The yield, the farmers said, is high but not quantified with randomised block design studies. The active principle of such concoctions is unknown and doesn’t stand scientific security. Moreover, the cost of these concoctions is as high as pesticides and starting products like cow dung are not available in plenty as of today. For about 90 per cent Indians, rice or wheat are almost exclusively the staple food. So, encouragement of organic farming in a country like India will be meaningful, if applied for rice / wheat. Studies on these crops should also be prioritised. The inconvenient truth, as many farmers put it, is that the land is infertile now without urea in the first few days of rice plantation, and with no application of synthetic pesticides, the entire crop is prone to pests resulting in no yield. The challenge for agriculture scientists is how to maintain the current volume of yield (40 quintals per acre) with organic farming. We need to take with caution some sporadic success stories of organic farming on vegetables and fruits grown in an acre or two. Thus, all the available tools we have with us, like bio-fertilisers, bio-pesticides, green manure and vermicompost, their limitation is discussed herein. Constraints of sustainable organic farming are: None of the organic farming tools are available, especially for organic farming of rice that is the staple food in India. Importantly, the whole organic farming depends on cow dung, which is dwindling even as we are particular about their protection (gosamrakshana). The staple food for cattle is rice straw. While we claim rice production is high and in surplus, the cost of rice remains very high and is not affordable for the poor man. Thus, the increase of cattle population is linked to paddy by rice production. Both are interlinked. Quantification for pesticide residues in food should be done by High Performance Liquid Chromatography / Mass Spectra / Mass Spectra (HPLC / MS / MS) method. The sophisticated method has been adopted by advanced countries but is still not in use in India. The real structure of crop production is dependent on high-yielding hybrid seeds. Continuous research on high yielding varieties by cross breeding with pest resistant wild varieties is essential.
Compost from urban areas and vermicompost, in particular, don’t seem to have been examined for pesticide residues and harmful trace elements such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead is needed by using HPLC /MS / MS method and atomic absorption spectroscopy.Introduction of transgenic varieties is not recommended for organic and natural farming. Therefore, it is wise to use the first three sprays on crops with natural organic materials and the last two sprays with synthetic pesticides. Research on organic farming should be done using robust scientific methods only. Surprisingly, rice was found to contain high pesticides and trace elements. This technique should be standardised in India. Our slogan should be “natural and organic farming with high yields at an affordable price to the common man”. India’s wheat exports surpassed $872 million (2021-22) and rice exports in 2021-22 is likely to surpass the record $10 million, according to the agriculture department of the Government of India.
Organic rice farming can be profitable if marketed well, says expertThe importance of promoting organically-farmed traditional paddy varieties was the focus of a conference organised by the Department of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Bishop Heber College in collaboration with Consumer Research, Education, Action, Training and Empowerment (CREATE) and its affiliated programme Save Our Rice Campaign Tamil Nadu on Friday. The event included an exhibition of traditional paddy strains. “For the past 15 years, we have conducted the National Paddy Festival, and distributed traditional rice seeds to farmers. As a result, they have started shifting over to organic rice farming. But they face a major problem with marketing their produce. Only when they can sell their crop can farmers sustain organic cultivation. We are taking some steps to rectify this situation from this year,” P. Duraisingham, chairman of Madurai-based CREATE, told The Hindu. “Since it is World Consumer Day on Saturday, we have invited consumer group heads from 40 districts to brief them about the medicinal value and nutritional benefits of heritage paddy,” he added. The lack of certification was a major drawback in organic paddy farming today, said Mr. Duraisingham, who is also a member of Bureau of Indian Standards. “We would like the State government to formulate an organic food policy to regulate the outlets. From the consumer’s perspective, the price of organically grown rice is exorbitant. This too has to be standardised, because some farmers and middlemen are creating a false impression about the high cost of organic cultivation,” he said. In her address, Usha Soolapani, national convenor of ‘Save Our Rice Campaign’, said, “Along with wheat, maize and potato, rice is among the four crops that ensure global food security. Paddy is a part of Asian culture, and India is a major producer of rice. But even though farmers are growing more than three times of what we need, they are still losing money when they invest in rice cultivation. This is why they are moving away to more remunerative crops such as banana, coconut and areca.
Weaning Away From “Green Revolution” TechnologyWith many vested interests at work, the government is learning a bitter lesson that it is not easy to wean away farmers from the use of chemicals in farming. It needs careful planning and closer consultations with farmers. The agricultural production system in Sri Lanka consists of two traditional and well-defined components. One is the plantation section, established during the colonial period, consisting of large units, and producing perennial crops such as coffee, tea, rubber, and coconut mainly for export. The other is the smallholder sector comprised of small farms, which produce most of the country’s rice, vegetables, legumes, tubers, spices, and fruits. While, fertilizers and pesticides have long been used for the production of plantation crops in Sri Lanka, until several decades ago, most of the smallholder operations were farmed with little or no input of agricultural chemicals. Wide use of chemical fertilizer was introduced to the country during the so-called ‘green revolution’ in the decades 1960-70 along with “high-yielding” seeds.
Costly Fertilizer Imports and SubsidyIn 2020, Sri Lanka imported (both state and private sector) foreign fertilizers worth $259 million, representing 1.6 percent of the country’s total imports by value according to Central Bank statistics. Sources indicate that the 2021 import bill could potentially total in the range of $300-$400 million given current international prices. By limiting and/or banning costly foreign exchange draining fertilizer and agrochemical imports, the Sri Lankan government aims to generate significant import cost savings. But, Professor Buddhi Marambe, a former Dean of Agriculture Faculty at the University of Peradeniya in recent newspaper articles has warned that an overnight shift to organic fertilizer could lead to crop declines that in turn cause huge food shortages within months. “We have spoken based on science. Without going for evidence-based decisions, nothing will go right,” he argues, refuting claims by the government that they are being manipulated. “Food security is national security,” he stresses, adding, “we must have sustainable policies to ensure food security because there is no point relying on food imports from outside”.
Rice Farmers’ GrievancesSome rural farmers have already decided not to cultivate Sri Lanka’s staple rice in the ongoing ‘Maha’ or next ‘Yala’ cultivation seasons, because of the government’s failure to supply necessary fertilizers. Farmers here are deeply unhappy at the sudden banning of the import of chemical fertilizer. They mainly cultivate paddy, low country vegetables, cereals, grains, and onions. However, in this ‘Maha’ season, they could not use chemical fertilizer, If the government promised to supply the required organic fertilizer, farmers say they didn’t receive it at the correct time. Rice farmers have thus used different fertilizer that is normally used for tea, cinnamon, and coconut. They say this season’s rice harvest is very disappointing with resulting low incomes. Piyarathna, Chairman, Eksath Sulu Farmer Organization, representing farmers from Dehiyannewela, Divilunkadawala ,Viharagama, Medirigiriya areas told IDN that there are 142 farmers in their farmer organization and they cultivate more than 190 acres using minor irrigation water. “Our farmers normally harvest 100- 120 bushel (2500-3000 kg) per acre using chemical fertilizer. However, this time farmers can’t expect such harvest due to improper fertilizer usage” he says, adding, “farming is now a business enterprise, (and) farmers cultivate not only for (their)consumption”. Paddy plants take around 3–6 months to grow from seeds to mature plants, depending on the variety and environmental conditions. They undergo three general growth phases: vegetative, reproductive, and ripening. “Our farmers cultivate two groups: the short-duration varieties which mature in 105–120 days and the long-duration varieties which mature in 150 days”, he explained. “They (farmers) use hybrid seed and not traditional varieties. These hybrids varieties need quality fertilizer to increase the harvest. By using organic fertilizer farmers can’t expect high yield”. Piyarathna says that farmers in the Polonnaruwa area have complained that the compost they have received is of inferior quality with most of the purchased compost having debris, seeds and stones. Kapila Ariyawasnsa, a 38 year old farmer from the Ekamuthu Bedum Ela Farmer Organization in Mahaweli river irrigation System B told IDN that he cultivate 8 acres of low land both in Yala and Maha seasons – mainly paddy – and there are also 206 rice farmers belonging to his organization. He thinks that the proposed organic fertilizer program is not practical in their area. “There are not enough resources to make compost in our village. Greenery vegetables can be cultivated using compost, not paddy,” he argues, because “there is no traditional varieties and only have all hybrid seeds (and) these hybrid seeds need required fertilizer for bumper harvest”. Further, he said that he had to spend Rs 23000 (USD 115) to purchase Yuria in black market. Ariyawasnsa, predicts that the rural economy will collapse after the coming rice harvest. “Farmers won’t have the yield this time, they would get only 30 per cent of the harvest” he predicts. “Most of the people in Mahaweli area depend on agriculture”. He added that not only Mahaweli B zone, but most farmers in the Polonnaruwa District, would face bad harvests due to the government’s organic fertilizer program. “The current government’s policy (has been based on) unplanned policy decisions” he laments.
Farmer’s ExpectationThere is also growing interest among farmers for producing organically-grown food products and they understand the export potential for it. Some farm production units have already experienced considerable success in such ventures. Organic food production and marketing could be greatly expanded in Sri Lanka. But, research is needed to develop organic farming systems and practices that are efficient, productive, and profitable. This is the criticism the government is facing at the moment. M.G. Dayawathi Chairman of Kalukele People’s company said that banning of chemical fertilizer has affected their company’s microfinance system too. “We have given more than 52 lakhs (5.2 million) of cultivation loans to 75 farmers for this Maha season. Unfortunately, farmers would not make the expected income and they are not in position to repay loans” she told IDN “Moreover, farmers mortgage their gold and their vehicles to purchase chemical fertilizer in the black market. They are trapped in a loan cycle. Government cannot expect livelihood improvement (among farmers) with this kind of unplanned program”.
It was then that Saroja thought of switching over to selling organic food and products. “I was always interested in cooking using millets and other traditional food grains. My husband grew organic vegetables and foodgrains like jowar, ragi, paddy and millets. So, I decided to sell the [harmful] chemical-free produce and traditional recipes using our farm fresh harvest,” she says.Saroja started the business informally. But it was only after her products were appreciated and received a better value in the market that many farmers approached her. “I started teaching women and men alike to effectively use available farm resources for organic pest management, increasing soil quality and yield,” she adds. Her work was recognised by the agriculture department officials who approached her to promote organic farming. She then joined the officials travelling around 20 villages near Harihar and other parts of the state, guiding farmers. “I became a better teacher, but also learned new techniques to grow crops from other farmers,” she says, adding, “The learning and earnings from agriculture helped me improve my family’s financial condition.” Saroja then felt the need to scale up and promote the goodness of organic food to a larger audience.
Starting TadhvanamIn 2014, she registered her business under the brand Tadhvanam, offering a range of products such as her famous banana flour, papad made from ragi, rice, jowar and pearl millets. Other unique products included vermicelli made from rice-wheat, ragi and other items.She also offers a Rava idli mix, Navane Bisi bele bath mix, Ragi maldi — a mixture of ragi powder with spices, jaggery and native herbs. She also sells a wide range of chutneys.Saroja says that one Eshwar Theerta, an organic food grower, taught her how to package and market the products. Eshwar adds, “Saroja has progressed far beyond where I taught her and feel proud of her achievements.” The gritty entrepreneur has promoted her organic products at various exhibitions across cities, like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Chennai and Karnataka. “I earned more confidence in my products when on one occasion, ISKCON approached me to place an order for rice papad as per their requirements. I felt proud about delivering and customising products according to customers,” she says.
Her banana flour, too, became an instant hit. “The product is made by drying bananas and making a powder through processing. It is a healthy replacement for maida or other types of flour. The daily use product was unique during those days and received a significant demand. I also shared 15 healthy recipes, including cake and spicy items like thakali (tomato rice), which customers liked,” she adds.
Promoting a Healthy LifestyleEventually, Saroja started forming women self-help groups and taking them on her exhibition tours. So far, she has trained over 500 women across Nittur, Hospet, Chitradurga, Harihur, Bellary, Gadag, Dharwad and Hubli, helping them establish a business. Many started their product manufacturing or entered organic farming, which helped them become financially independent. Mamatha, a farmer from neighbouring Harihar village, says she became acquainted with Saroja about four years ago. She says, “I learned organic farming techniques from Saroja to grow paddy and seasonal vegetables on my farm. My husband passed away due to an illness. But organic farming has helped me sustain and become financially independent.” While empowering women, Saroja helped them overcome and avoid hardships she faced as an entrepreneur. “I faced many challenges in convincing customers and farmers to opt for organic farming. To encourage buyers, I gave away samples in small mud pots. I requested them to try consuming [harmful] chemical-free food. They loved it and returned for more. Even today, the majority of my customers repeat,” she adds. She says arranging finances also made her entrepreneurial journey difficult. “Unlike urban entrepreneurs, the government and private banks do not offer loans to rural women fearing losses and lack of confidence. I had to make arrangements with my family. Moreover, I did not know effective marketing techniques and social media did not exist during my early years. I had to build trust by interacting personally with customers,” Saroja shares. The entrepreneur adds, “Today, I help women procure finances through reliable entities and share experiences in marketing and promoting their products.” However, Saroja says the villagers welcomed her decision of becoming an entrepreneur, which helped her gain confidence and establish her business.
Today, Saroja earns a monthly business of Rs 50,000 and is content with her achievements. “I have employed 20 women working part-time as per their convenience. I aim to promote organic food. Many products available in the market are adulterated and I want to encourage people to choose healthier food,” she says.
Organic Rice Protein Market to Reach $307.2 Million by 2028 – Powered by Increase in Consumer Awareness about Healthy Diet
Export body to give it a makeover to help it face competitors from Southeast AsiaAgricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) Chairman M. Angamuthu has said that the authority has prepared a road map to export organic rice varieties from Andhra Pradesh to meet the growing demand in the European Union, Middle East and East Asia. Mr. Angamuthu told The Hindu here, “Post COVID-19, many countries, including the European Union are looking for rice varieties grown through organic farming methods in India. We have chosen Andhra Pradesh to source such rice for export.” “The APEDA under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry will be the facilitator between the importer and the exporter, and help the latter obtain necessary certification for export. Decks will be cleared for export once organic rice varieties are certified,” said Mr. Angamuthu.
‘Branding needed’“Despite India being a major rice exporter to 170 countries across the globe, Vietnam, Thailand and Philippines remain the prime competitors as India continues to export rice without any key features - branding, promotion and value addition,” explained Mr. Angamuthu. “In a war-footing initiative, a strategy has been prepared to brand the Indian rice varieties with value addition. However, product diversification will be the key strategy to face the challenge from our global competitors,” he added
The senior IAS officer said that the APEDA is all set to groom a group of 100 progressive farmers or Farmers' Producer Organisations from Andhra Pradesh and connect them to the global market to export their respective products including horticulture crops and maize.
BANGKOK, July 1, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The Department of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce, Thailand, has introduced a project called "Think RICE, Think THAILAND" to encourage international community to pay attention to consumer health and to raise awareness on the national crop by providing a wider range of knowledge, ranging from national agricultural history, standards and Thai rice quality.
The Ministry of Commerce explained that Thailand, as a leader in rice production and exports, has rapidly expanded its organic rice farming due to the increasing preference for organic food amongst consumers around the world. The country aims to become ASEAN's organic rice production hub with efficient production and product traceability, from grain selection to packaging.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce, encourage farmers and traders to produce quality organic rice that meets the requirements of international standards including: International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, EU Organic, USDA National Organic Program, Canada Organic Regime, Japanese Agricultural Organic Standard, China Organic Food Certification Center and Ecocert.
To produce Thai organic rice, the country starts with quality grains selection from organic rice suppliers, then, carefully preparing soil to minimize weeds without using chemicals. Next, it is about selecting fertile farmlands with controlled irrigation to prevent contamination from outside water sources and enrich the soil with organic plant fertilizers. Eliminating weeds is done by using non-chemical methods along with microbial pesticides. To prevent and eliminate diseases, a natural balance and proper irrigation to strengthen the rice's immunity to diseases provided. The country relies on natural predators to prevent and eliminate pests. Moreover. Thai organic rice farmers also focus on the chemical contamination prevention, before and after harvest to maintain the organic chain. Paddy rice must be stored in its suitable environment. As for pack milled rice, using either the vacuum packing method or CO2 technique.
Think Rice, Think Thailand.
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THE COMMERCE Ministry plans to enlist the support of Asean members to set up an Asean Organic Agriculture Federation aimed at boosting organic agricultural products in the regional market.
Nel Jayaraman says some varieties of indigenous paddy are drought and salt water resistant
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Overall U.S. organic sales were about $47 billion in 2016. Sales of organic non-food products increased 8.8% to $3.9 billion. Organic food accounted for 5.3% of total U.S. food sales.
Organic fruits and vegetables, the largest organic food category, accounted for nearly 40% of all organic food sales, rising 8.4% to $15.6 billion in 2016. Organic fruit and vegetables made up almost 15% of the produce that Americans ate in 2016.
Sales of organic meat and poultry rose more than 17% in 2016 to $991 million. Organic dips and organic spices, although still smaller categories, recorded double-digit jumps in sales. Organic dip sales increased 41% to $57 million, and organic spice sales increased 35% to $193 million.
More than 60% of all organic businesses with more than five employees reported an increase in full-time employment in 2016.
|Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association.|
“Organic farmers are not just staying in business, they’re often expanding,” said Laura Batcha, executive director of the Organic Trade Association. “Organic handling, manufacturing and processing facilities are being opened, enlarged and retooled. Organic farms, suppliers and handlers are creating jobs across the country, and the organic sector is growing and creating the kinds of healthy, environmentally friendly products that consumers are increasingly demanding.”
She added the organic sector needs help in meeting demand.
“We need more organic farmers in this country to meet our growing organic demand, and the organic sector needs to have the necessary tools to grow and compete on a level playing field,” Batcha said. “That means federal, state and local programs that help support organic research and provide the organic farmer with a fully equipped tool kit to be successful.”Nutrition Business Journal conducted the survey on behalf of the Organic Trade Association. More than 200 companies responded to the survey, which took place from Feb. 2 to March 31.
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