//Efforts to produce organic paddy turn fruitful in Thrissur, Kerala

Efforts to produce organic paddy turn fruitful in Thrissur, Kerala

Kochi: The first ever endeavour of a group of farmers in Kerala's Thrissur district to produce organic paddy has turned out to be successful with a moderate harvest fetching a premium price.

The yield of 2.5 tonne per acre is equal to that of the paddy cultivated using the conventional method since there was no drop in productivity as has been commonly believed, M.V. Rajendran, President of the Adat Farmers' Cooperative Bank, told Business LineHe said 2,400 members joined together to cultivate organic paddy in 2,500 acres of kol-wetland in the Panchayat. The total output came to 6,250 tonnes.t is probably for the first time that such a cooperative effort has taken place in the State, he said. The cultivation is done under the supervision of the certifying agency Indocert and the entire cost has been financed by the Bank at Rs 8,000 an acre.

To fetch more price

"We could sell the produce at Rs 1,000 a quintal as against the procurement price of Rs 800 a quintal for the paddy cultivated under the conventional method. Once it is certified as 100 per cent organic, the price would go up to Rs 1,500-2,000 a quintal," he said

No chemical pesticides have been used. However since the farmers have taken up organic cultivation for the first time, 50 kg of urea has been used along with neem cake and rock phosphate as fertilisers, which the certifying agency has allowed. But in the coming years even that would not also be used. Once it becomes 100 per cent organic, the Indocert would certify the product in the third year, he said. Since the field is kol land, which used to remain under water for seven months of the year, it used to be fertile per se. The water is pumped out and the field is prepared for cultivation of the paddy.The marketing of the produce is undertaken by the Bank.

Export market

The entire quantity has been sold to the Kochi-based NeST group, which plans to export it. The sale proceeds will be distributed among the farmers after the advances given to them are deducted by the Bank.

The total rice production in the State, which has an annual rice demand for 40 lakh tonnes, is estimated at around four lakh tonnes and hence it depends on imports of rice from neighbouring States. The non-remunerative price for paddy has forced the farmers to give up its cultivation and the government in a bid to bring them back is currently procuring it at Rs 800 a quintal.

The Bank, as part of its market intervention exercises to ensure the paddy growers of a moderate price, has embarked upon cultivating organic paddy, given the future potential demand at a higher price.

Bank is bullish

He said the Bank with a paid-up capital of Rs 60 crore had a deposit base of Rs 55 crore and total advances amounting to Rs 48 crore. The beneficiaries are mainly farmers.

The "increasing shift towards organic food products following the growing awareness about the ill-effects of chemical fertilisers and pesticides have encouraged us to think of experimenting with the cultivation of paddy here," he said.

The ever-growing health consciousness among the people in the developed countries has pushed up the demand for organic foods in world market.

It is evident from the growth in worldwide sales of organic foods, which grew by five to seven per cent last year to $26.5 million from $25 million the year before.

The Indian organic sector is still scattered and its development lags far behind its actual potential. The main bottleneck is development of markets, an official source here said. While India could have a growing share in supplying export markets, the Indian domestic market for organic food appears as a `sleeping giant', which needs to be awakened.

Some innovative supermarket chains and food brands, as also a number of producer companies and co-operatives, are now exploring this potential market, experts pointed out.