FAO to promote organic farming

Hyderabad, March 23 | Updated: Mar 24 2005, 05:30am hrs
In a bid to improve soil conditions and reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture practices, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) plans to take up organic farming methods in the country on a pilot basis. The programme is expected to commence shortly in Andhra Pradesh, Uttaranchal, West Bengal, Sikkim and Maharashtra, according to Daniel Gustafson, FAO representative for India and Bhutan.

The cost of the project is about $2 million and will be operational for three years, Mr Gustafson told FE. Experience in other countries shows that the production will increase with the use of organic manure. Besides, the product will be widely marketable, he added.

The UN organisation has taken up this programme keeping in view the increased incidences of pesticide residues in some commodities, especially among horticultural produces both for export as well as domestic markets.

Mr Gustafson said that the programme will be taken up in collaboration with the Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR), National Organic Cultivation Research Institute, Ghaziabad, Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), among others.

We will provide all required logistics including a portion of finances to these organisations, he added.

The programme will focus on all kinds of crops including vegetables, fruits, medicinal and aromatic plants. The products will be certified to enable farmers to export to the US and European countries. We are also planning for group certification for the produce to help small farmers. The programme will organise meeting programmes with the farmers or self-help groups or mutually-aided cooperative societies (MACS) to certify the product, which will be more economical, Mr Gustafson pointed out. On an average, it takes about two years to attain the level of certification.

Incidentally, APEDA is also planning for group certification and has proposed to introduce this scheme next month facilitating small and marginal farmers.