India mulling organic regs

India mulling organic regs

Organic farming is on the increase in India, and as a result the country is in the process of drawing up its own organic policy to help boost exports of agricultural products and processed food from the country.
 
The policy, which is reportedly being drafted by the Commerce Ministry in collaboration with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, will include clearly defined safety standards, soil certification guidelines, along with traceability norms and guidelines on good agricultural practice. The latter is being devised by studying the good practices followed by countries such as the US, Brazil and France, according to local reports.
 
"We have seen tremendous growth and momentum in the past five years in the organic farming sector," said N Balasubramanina, the chief executive of 24 Mantra organic, which works with almost 30,000 farmers producing organic products ranging from lentils to spices to juices.
 
"The awareness about organic products has increased manifold among the consumer and the demand for organic products has increased tremendously," he told the National newspaper.
 
He said that ten years ago when he was starting out, people were not very conscious of what they were eating, but organic products were now more affordable in India, and the purchasing power of Indian consumers had also increased.
 
"With government support and incentives, the farmers are now willing to try out organic farming, especially with so many success stories around them."
 
The development of a uniform policy for the organics sector has partly been spurred on to give domestic consumers, as well as foreign buyers confidence in Indian products. This is particularly important,  in light of recent instances in which Indian food exports have fallen foul of international standards. For example, food safety inspectors in the UAE last month discovered potentially dangerous levels of pesticides in some fruit and vegetable exports from India.
 
While the global organic food market is estimated at an annual $72 billion, exports from India are a mere $298 million. India exports mostly to the US, Europe, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and countries in South East Asia.
 
India produced around 1.35 million tonnes of certified organic products last year, including sugarcane, oil seeds, cereals & millets, cotton, pulses, medicinal plants, tea, fruits, spices, dry fruits, vegetables and coffee.
 
Spearheading the Indian organic movement is Sikkim in north-east India. Earlier this year, it became the first state in the country to become completely organic, and the sale of chemical products for use on farmland is banned.
 
Madhya Pradesh in the north of the country has the biggest area of farmland under organic certification, followed by Himachal Pradesh and then Rajasthan, according to the Indian government body the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority. There are also more than 100,000 farmers in Kerala in the south-west of the country, practising organic farming and at least 10 cooperatives promoting the sector in the state

The Indian Ministry of Commerce and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.