India's share in the global export market of organic products is less than one per cent, according to the report titled "The World of Organic Agriculture Statistics and Emerging Trends 2020, published by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.Traditional agriculture practice in North-eastern states being organic in nature, the region has huge potential to ride the country's dream to increase its share in global export of organic. The Central government has been promoting organic farming under the scheme- Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region to cater to the needs of domestic and export markets. The scheme supports end-to-end support to organic farmers from production to certification and marketing. Post-harvest management support including processing, packaging, and marketing are also integral part of it. Over the past years since launching of the scheme, farmer-industry connect has been established through professional project management team. Five Farmer Producer Companies (FPC) have entered into contract farming of calendula flowers, turmeric and ginger with leading export houses and nutraceutical companies this year.
More than seven brands have positioned in the organic value chain in the region which deal with organic products like kiwi wine, fruit candies, herbal tea, packaged spices, black rice products, sauces, and fruit juices with some of these entering and competing in European and US export markets. The scheme provides for 75% subsidy to Farmer Producer Organizations (FPO) and 50% subsidy to private entrepreneurs for establishing food processing industries and post-harvest units. The success stories are expected to have rippling effect across the region if the States can ensure judicious and timely utilization of the fund provided under the scheme. The Central government allocated Rs 670 crore from 2015-16 till 2020-21 with average annual allocation of Rs 134 crore. The government informed the Lok Sabha that the scheme benefited 83,075 farmers and led to promotion of 169 FPCs covering 74,889 hectares area of organic farming. Increasing the annual allocation to Rs 200 crore by the Central government under the scheme is aimed at covering additional one lakh hectare area under 200 new FPOs over the next three years. Global demand for organic farm produce has increased many folds as health consciousness has grown. Organic foods are free from toxic chemicals used in pesticides and chemical fertilisers as farmers practicing organic farming use bio-pesticides, bio-fertilisers, vermicompost, animal dung and urine. Food products from organic farm produce therefore is healthy and highly nutritious. Most areas of the region continue to be natural organic hub as the Green Revolution in India which focused on increasing the productivity through use of chemical fertiliser, pesticides besides high yielding varieties and farm mechanization.
Even though the region lagged behind the agriculturally advances states which witnessed boost in agricultural production and modern farming it has become a blessing to take advantage of demand for organic food products. Besides, the farmers in the region enjoy natural advantage as unlike farmers in green revolution areas they do not face the challenge of changing the farming practice to start organic farming. The challenge for the northeast region is to balance the market demands and conservation of forest and environment as forests cannot cleared to undertake organic farming just to meet the demands. Value addition to organic produce from farm in the form of processed foods can fetch premium prices. Rainwater harvesting and creation of watersheds in areas under organic farming plays an important role in preventing ground water depletion and maintenance of soil quality. Terrace cultivation in many areas of the region is a classic example of the wisdom of farmers in application of rainwater harvesting technology for organic farming.
Training and certification form two critical components of organic farming. Traditional wisdom of farmers in the region needs to be enhanced to research-based and scientifically proved farming methods developed and demonstrated by experts of Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Agricultural universities to improve farming and achieve optimal production and meet global standards. The ultimate goal of the scheme to organic value chain development mission is to diversify India's export basket of organics for connectivity plays crucial role. Convergence of road sector and other infrastructure projects with agricultural and horticultural missions in the region will help farmers in the region realise their new dream of developing more brands and compete in the global export markets of organics. Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority facilitates participation of exporters in international trade fairs, organize buyer-sellers meets. The organic food mission has created huge potential of grooming local exporters in the region by APEDA, but this requires collaboration from banks and other financial institutions to provide better credit access to the new exporters. The silent revolution under organic value chain development mission has the potential to script a new growth story for the Northeast.