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Organic Food: A booming trend in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

PESHAWAR, Mar 24 (APP): The benefits of organic food and its positive effects on human life have drawn peoples’ attention towards safe food that is also rich in nutrients and grown by traditional methods using natural ingredients beneficial for health.
With the new innovation and developments in medical science that unveiled the hazards of inorganic foods to humans is seen. The scientists are still unaware about the real harmful effects of foods grown from unnatural ways but people are preferring food that is simple, pure and less contaminated by chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides.
“Agricultural products that are grown and processed without use of chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers and genetically modified organisms are referred to inorganic food,” said Darya Khan, Provincial Coordinator at Nutrition International Peshawar while talking to APP. He said such food was healthy, full of antioxidants and without allergens besides have lasting effects on immunity and life span.
He said individuals who use inorganic food are more prone to various kinds of diseases and ailments and the best option was adaptation of home-based agriculture practices to get organic food. He said that survival rate and life expectancy of people living in remote areas is far better as compared to people living in developed cities, adding the average life span of population residing in remote areas of Pakistan like Hunza, Swat and Chitral are significantly longer and healthier due to their reliance on organic food items.
He said the food grown in natural ways was full of nutrients and devoid of harmful effects that increased immunity of human beings and protect them from falling prey to most common diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and other stomach disorders.
Besides Japan, Singapure, Indonesia and SAARC countries, he said that culture of organic food cultivation made inroads in Pakistan, adding the kitchen gardens culture at Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar was growing for organic food.
“In Ramazan, my first priority is to purchase organic food including banana, citrus and vegetables due to high nutrient value and free of adulteration,” said Bakhtair Khan, former General Manager SMEDA at Faqirabad fruit and vegetable market at Peshawar. “I have established kitchen garden at backyard of my house at Hayatabad from where my family collect fresh organic food,” he said.
Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) report has revealed that organic farming in Pakistan has been growing at an average rate of 15 percent per year over the past decade and this is due to a number of factors such as increasing awareness about health benefits of organic foods and hazardous being caused by synthetic chemicals in conventional farming.
“The key principle of organic food production is soil health in which farmers maintain soil fertility through practices such as crop rotation and use of natural fertilizers i.e manure,” said Sundas Manzoor, a diet consultant. She said the approach enriches soil, ensure healthier plant growth besides making plants resistant to pests and diseases and increase immunity of consumers.
Organic farming relies on natural methods of production instead of using practices that are dependent on artificial methods of plant growth, she added. The production and use of organic food is also a habit that helps promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity, said former conservator for Forests KP Niaz Ali Khan. He said farmers that use organic methods cultivate a variety of crops and utilize natural habitats into their agricultural and forest landscapes to support beneficial insects, birds and wildlife.
Niaz said this diversity helps maintain a balanced ecosystem besides reducing need for unnecessary chemical interventions. These practices contribute to healthier animals and produce meat, dairy and eggs that are free from harmful residues.
Organic food farming also contributes to environmental conservation by reducing pollution, judicious use of water, promoting soil health and protecting wildlife habitats, he said and added effects of climate change could be effectively controlled by increased production of organic food.
The sales of organic packaged food and beverages in Pakistan has increased by 29 percent in 2020 as compared to just 2 percent growth in the overall packaged food market, said a report of Euromonitor International.
In recent years, consumers are seen preferring organic food for several reasons because they are healthier, safer and free from synthetic chemicals and pesticides, said Qaisar Afridi who has grown an organic kitchen garden in backyard at Gulbahar Peshawar. “I did not use synthetic chemicals or pesticides to control pests, weeds and diseases.
The basics of my production method is to use natural methods like beneficial insect predators, crop rotation and mechanical weed control to manage pests and maintain crop health, he said and added that production of organic food is labor intensive but benefits are more exciting as compared to time consumption and laborious work.
He said that organic food production also confronted with challenges like more labor and lower yields compared to conventional methods leading to increased prices and beyond reach of low- income consumers.
However, the demand for organic food continues to grow day by day globally as more consumers are becoming conscious of health priorities, he added. He said that increase in demand of organic food substantiate the fact that people are now attracting towards healthy organic food due to health benefits.
Dr Fazal Wahab, Director Agriculture and Research KP said that Pakistan’s fertile soil, especially in Northern Punjab and KP was most suited for production of different varieties of organic fruits and vegetables, adding that, the country’s walnuts, chalgoza, orange, locots, chaunsa mangoes and peas were being preferred in domestic and international markets due to their high nutritional value and better taste.
The wheat and maize flour of southern districts of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh were organic in nature as there is hardly any use of pesticide in it.
Dr Wahab cited a research study suggesting that amount of certain nutrients could vary between conventional and organic bananas, adding that the latter was higher in zinc, fiber and vitamins than the former.
“Approximately 1,000 organic plants, including herbs, saffron, aloe vera, medicinal and cosmetic are being produced in the country,” he said, adding still we have to import different herbs plants to cater the needs of pharmaceutical industry.
Saffron, aloe vera and olives cultivation have been started in the country including KP where the market size of organic products had almost been doubled during the past few years.
The agriculture department has launched a mega project ‘certification of agriculture products and organic food farming,’ in the province under which farmers investing in organic farming are being imparted free training and certification services to explore new markets for their products inside and outside of the country, he added. 

APP/fam/taj (APP Feature Service)

https://www.app.com.pk/features/organic-food-a-booming-trend-in-khyber-pakhtunkhwa/ QR Code

Published Date: March 24, 2024

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