Sikkim: India's First Organic State: RSTV - In Depth

Sikkim had a resolution in 2003, to shift towards Organic Farming with an aim to stop usage of chemicals and pesticides in farming. As a result Sikkim became the first Organic state in the World and received an award from Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in Rome. This article gives you a complete overview and the strides taken by Sikkim towards Organic farming.

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Anchor: Teena Jha

Why in the News?

  1. India’s first 100% organic state Sikkim has won the ‘Oscar for best policies’, conferred by the Food and Agriculture Organisation for the world’s best policies promoting agro-ecological and sustainable food systems.
  2. Sikkim beat 51 nominations from 25 different countries of the world to win the Future Policy Award 2018.
  3. The Chief Minister of Sikkim Pawan Kumar Chamling received the award from the Deputy Director of UN’s FAO Maria Helena Semedo in Rome on October 15th.
  4. In 2003, Sikkim became the first state in India to officially announce the adoption of organic farming to ensure long-term sustenance of soil fertility, protection of environment and ecology, healthy living and decreasing the risk of health ailments.
  5. It also stopped imports of chemical fertilizers in the State, and since then, the cultivable land in Sikkim is practically organic.  
  6. The Future Policy Award recognised the state’s leadership and political will to lead by example. Today’s In Depth talks about the policies adopted by Sikkim that helped it become the first organic state in the world, the status of organic farming in India and its potential in our agro-driven economy.

Larger Background

  1. Back in 2003, Sikkim officially took the decision to go organic. In the coming years, Sikkim made a transformational shift from using Chemicals and Pesticides, to imposing a complete ban on them.
  2. In January 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared Sikkim as India’s first, fully organic state.
  3. Currently, the efforts of the North Eastern states towards achieving sustainable goals have been rewarded by the United Nations.   

Some Specifics

  1. Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, Sikkim, became India’s first 100% organic state in January 2016. Showing the way to other states and even other countries to turn organic.

Sikkim Gets a UN Award

  1. Sikkim is the first organic state in the world. All of its farmland is certified organic. At the same time, Sikkim’s approach reaches beyond organic production and has proven truly transformational for the states and its citizens.
  2. Sikkim sets an excellent example of how other Indian states and countries worldwide can successfully upscale agro-ecology.
  3. Receiving the award at a ceremony in  Rome on Monday, Sikkim Chief Minister, Pawan Chamling, said that it took Sikkim over a decade to transform into a fully organic state.
  4. In 2003, Sikkim officially adopted a resolution to switch to organic farming.
  5. The state decided to go organic, to ensure long-term sustenance of soil fertility, protection of environment and ecology. The objective was also to promote healthy living and decreasing the risk of disease.
  6. The policy implemented a ‘phase-out’ of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and soon achieved a total ban on the sale and use chemical pesticides in the state.
  7. The same year, Sikkim also stopped all imports of chemical fertilizers. Since then, the farmers of the state have been using organic manure.
  8. In 2010, the State Government launched the ‘Sikkim Organic Mission’. The Sikkim Organic Mission was launched to fast-track its journey towards achieving the 100% organic tag. The Mission helped by providing seeds and manure and training farmers inorganic methods. The transition to an organic state has benefitted over 66,000 farming families in the state, while also bringing about rural development and sustainable living.
  9. Besides proving transformational for public health and environment in the region, organic farming is also attracting a large number of tourists to the state who throng to see its lush, green farms, pure and organic agro products, and meals made out of fresh produce.
  10. Between 2015 and 2017, the number of tourists in Sikkim went up by 50%.
  11. Organic agriculture uses naturally occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances. This enhances agro-ecosystem health, including Biodiversity, Biological cycles and soil-biological activity.

Why Organic Farming and Why it is the Need of the Hour?

Organic farming uses techniques to achieve good crop yields without harming the natural environment or the people who live and work in it.

It relies on organic or natural fertilizers like:

  1. Compost Manure
  2. Green Manure
  3. Bone Meal

And it places emphasis on techniques like:

  1. Crop Rotation
  2. Companion Planting

Further, Biological Pest Control, Mixed Cropping. And Nurturing Insect Predators are encouraged in organic farming.

While all traditional farming is now considered to be organic farming, an organic movement started in the 1940s as a reaction to agriculture’s growing reliance on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Lord Walter James Northnburn coined the term, “Organic Farming” in his book, “Look to the Land” which was published in 1940’s. There are different kinds of manures which need to be used- for example, Vermicomposting, Compost, etc. have to be used to maintain soil fertility. Similarly, as far as plant protection is concerned, it is important to manage pests.

Key Characteristics of Organic Farming

  1. Protecting long-term fertility of soils by maintaining organic matter levels and encouraging soil-biological activity.
  2. Providing crop nutrients indirectly using insoluble nutrient sources by the action of soil microorganisms
  3. Nitrogen self-sufficiency through the use of legumes and biological nitrogen fixation and effective recycling of organic materials, including crop residues and livestock manures.
  4. Weed, disease and pest control by crop rotation
  5. Organic manuring  
  6. Minimum biological and chemical intervention
  7. Management of livestock and paying attention to their evolutionary adaptations, behavioural needs and animal welfare issues with respect to nutrition, housing, health, breeding and rearing and careful attention to the impact of the farming system on the wider environment and the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats.

A Few More Important Insights

  1. Maintaining a green environment is a great concern worldwide and organic farming can partly offer a solution as it promotes ecological harmony, biodiversity, and biological cycles that are vital for environmental sustainability
  2. Reckless use of chemicals in agriculture, severely affects the health of people who consume end products and also those involved in such farming methods
  3. Organic produce offers the safest products for human consumption as they contain lower levels of chemicals  
  4. Latest data suggests that 57.8 million hectares of organic agricultural land are available worldwide for organic farming which is 1.2% of the world’s agricultural land.
  5. Oceania with 27.3 million hectares has the largest area of organic and cultural land, followed by Europe (13.5 million hectares), Latin America (7.1 million hectares), Asia (4.9 million hectares), North America (3.1 million hectares), and Africa (1.8 million hectares).  
  6. Worldwide, organic farmland increased by 7.5 million hectares in 2016, which is a growth of 15%
  7. India has 1.49 million hectares of organic farmland. India was placed at number 9 in the list of top 10 countries with the largest area of organic land in 2016. India also added an additional 0.3 million hectares to its existing organic land in the same year (2016).
  8. With 178 countries involved in organic farming, the global market for organic food reached $89.7 Billion USD in 2016 and is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years.

A Look at Specifics

  1. India’s Progress in the Organic Sector has been remarkable. In the 1990’s, the sector was limited, to the export of tea to European markets. At present, India is emerging as a key player in the global arena, exporting over 300 products in 20 different categories to more than 20 countries. Besides, India is also the largest exporter of organic cotton and houses the largest number of organic producers in the world. The domestic organic markets are growing at a rate higher than the global average, and are expected to keep growing at 25% by the year 2020.
  2. According to the World of Organic Agriculture Report 2018, India has the largest number of organic producers in the world. With 8.35 lakh certified organic producers, India is home to over 30% of the total organic producers worldwide. Experts say that the increase in organic production is the result of a large number of entrepreneurs advocating organic farming and its complementary methods. At present, multiple organizations, and firms are backing organic farming more than ever, spreading the impact of organic farming to common households everywhere.
  3. However, when it comes to the area under “Certified Organic Cultivation”, India contributes only 2.59%, i.e. 1.5 million hectares of the total area of 57.8 million hectares. But amongst regions with the largest areas of organically managed agricultural land, India ranks 9th, occupying a robust position in producing organic products.
  4. According to a report by ASSOCHAM and Ernst and Young, India exported 1.35 million metric tonnes of certified organic food products worth 1,937 crore rupees in 2015-16. Further, India is the largest exporter of organic cotton worldwide.
  5. In the food market segment, oilseeds comprised half of India’s overall organic food export, followed by processed food products at 25%.
  6. The current Indian organic market is estimated at Rs. 4000 crores INR, and is likely to increase to Rs. 10,000-12,000 crore rupees INR, by 2020, with a similar incremental trend in exports.
  7. The Indian organic market has been progressing steadily with a combined annual growth rate of 25% as compared to 16% global growth rates.
  8. However, despite the promising performance in terms of exports, the local consumption of organic produce, is still at a nascent stage with a market share of less than 1%
  9. The current position of organic farming with reference to area covered across the country is 23.02 lakh hectares. Under the schemes, “Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana”, “Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North eastern Region”, and “National Program of Organic Production”. Under the first two schemes, enough assistance is provided to entrepreneurs for the development of value chains, and marketing of organic produce. The cost of organic agriculture largely depends on-farm generation of inputs, when on-farm organic inputs are used. Cost of production per-unit area is less by 13% under organic agriculture than inorganic management.
  10. However, if organic inputs from outside the farm are purchased and utilized, then the cost of production increases by about 15-20%, depending on the nature of inputs used. Integrated organic farming system models being developed, promise to meet 70-80% of organic inputs within the farm. This will reduce the market input cost considerably.
  11. Experts say that the increasing support from the Government has been the key driver for growth in the organic sector in India. Several other factors that contribute to the growth include increasing health awareness among people, rising disposable incomes, urbanization and technological development.
  12. Innovative technological solutions using artificial intelligence, imaging and renewable energy, among others are being developed by private companies for the organic food industry. Since the organic food segment is still at a nascent stage in India, both the Government and private players need to develop a strong policy framework that can benefit all involved. The organic farming industry in India holds immense potential to grow provided it receives steady investment and benefits from both existing and new initiatives like incentivising organic cultivation, food processing, certification and regulatory ease and tax benefits.

Challenges Faced by Organic Farmers

  1. Organic farming may have gained momentum in recent years but it has not yet managed to assume the centre-stage in Indian agriculture.
  2. Although several states have made remarkable progress in organic farming, it needs to overcome challenges at policy, commercial, and infrastructural levels.
  3. Organic farming is fast becoming the new face of Indian agriculture. The government has taken several steps to promote organic farming with the aim to improve soil fertility and help double farmers income by the year 2022.
  4. However, despite developments in the field, it is surprising that organic farming has not yet managed to enter the agricultural mainstream.
  5. According to a 2017 Survey Based Study covering 418 organic farmers across different states in India, a move to organic farming methods may not be that easy and organic farmers are not getting the expected premium price for their produce.
  6. The study highlighted several key issues faced by organic farmers that are affecting their livelihood and incomes.
  7. One of the foremost challenges is the rampant use of pesticides and chemicals to get rid of weeds. As a matter of fact, excessive use of chemicals have pest and weed species immune to chemicals. This is the first hurdle in the transition from conventional to organic farming.
  8. Farmers also complain of low productivity during the transition from conventional chemical farming to organic farming.
  9. As organic farming prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides, the farmer is at the mercy of severe attacks from mutant pests. The situation becomes worse not only with the discovery of newer variants of pests and diseases but also because of the traditional methods of pest control that fail to contain the damage to crops to crops.
  10. This decreases the overall production and hence farmers have demanded education and training on how to tackle pest attacks.
  11. Further, severe lack of suitable infrastructure is also proving to be a herculean task for organic farmers. Maximum organic farming consists of fruit and vegetable production, which is highly perishable in nature. Inadequate agricultural infrastructure and lack of cold storage facilities leads to loss of produce mostly because of spoilage.
  12. An underdeveloped supply chain further affects small and mid-sized farmers that are located in hilly regions and tribal belts.
  13. Since organic products have to be stored separately from conventional products to avoid cross-contamination, the existing supply chain fails in this respect.
  14. After overcoming all these hurdles, when the organic produce reaches the market, consumers find them expensive and hence they are discouraged from buying them.
  15. According to an ASSOCHAM study, Rs.1,200/- to Rs. 1,500/- per month is the additional expenditure if a consumer switches to organic food.
  16. Organic produce is more expensive due to higher labour costs and comparatively lower yields.

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