Organic Farmers Rue Lack Of Labour, Neglect, Corruption In Sector

Given the prices are paid for organic produce in cities, you would think that organic farmers laugh all the way to the bank. But that is not always the case.

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The hope is that Budget 2018 will at least acknowledge and help in production of organic food.


Krishnagiri: Shyam and Deepa are yoga teachers who provide yoga therapy to clients in Bengaluru. But their home is on a one and a half acre organic farm in Tamil Nadu's Krishnagiri district. Shyam's passion is organic farming and after six years of using this farm as a learning lab, he hopes to expand to 15 acres soon. But, as is the case for many organic farmers, this is more about passion than profit.
Shyam told NDTV, "Avocados with a farm gate price of Rs 40/kg sell for Rs 400 in a gourmet store. It is the middlemen, the stores who make the profit."

Given the prices we pay for organic produce in cities, you would think that organic farmers laugh all the way to the bank. But that is not always the case - at least for small farmers in this labour intensive field.

Shyam said, "It is very difficult to get labour. Because of MGNREGA, many rural workers choose to work under that instead. It would help if the budget looks at making it easier to get small farm machinery for organic farms. Certification of organic farms is also a big issue as a lot of corruption is involved. Land has to lie empty for at least three years before it is free of chemicals that have been used before. But very few farmers are doing that. Certification, however, is sometimes given when people pay money for it."

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) guarantees 100 days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

Traditional farmers, Shyam believes, are reluctant to turn to organic farming because of the time involved in seeing a profit, and the fact that they have become used to working with chemical fertilisers and pesticides. He also laments the loss of the practice of growing food plants from seeds - something he is doing on his small farm.

The hope is that the budget will at least acknowledge and help in the production of organic food that is largely agreed to be a healthier option.

There are little to no incentives for the organic farmer. "They talk about subsidies for urea. But to get into organic farming is a very difficult process. There are so many processes to get through," Shyam said.

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