NEW DELHI: The agriculture ministry is discussing a proposal to help organic farmers’ organisations tie up with e-commerce companies with state government help, according to a senior official.
In the absence of a dedicated marketing channel in the country for certified organic farm produce — cultivation of which is thinly distributed across the country — the proposal is seen boosting farmers’ income and helping firms like Amazon, BigBasket and Grofers maintain steady supply of these food items.
“We are planning to call companies and e-commerce food retail chains like Amazon, Grofers, BigBasket, and based on their requirement link them to states where organic farming is being done and FPOs,” said the agriculture ministry official, requesting not to be named. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been stressing on the need to increase acreage under organic farming in order to empower farmers and help boost their returns. At present, only 2.25 million hectares is under organic farming, compared with the government’s target of covering 14 million hectares by 2025.
Albinder Dhindsa cofounder of Grofers, said supply inconsistency and high prices are the challenges faced in the procurement of organic produce in the country. He said with growing health awareness, consumers are willing to buy organic food, but doubt whether the product is worth the price.
“If the government can help bridge this gap for organic produce, it would be the best thing to happen to farmers. This would not just solve the problem for customers but also make the farmer’s life much more comfortable,” said Dhindsa. “Assured demand will help them improve efficiency and offer better prices, making the merchandise more affordable With better affordability, there will be higher demand, fuelling growth in this business.”
Meanwhile, on a similar line, the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has tied up with Metal and Scrap Trading Corporation to start a platform — e-organic bazaar portal — from next month where all certified produce will be sold by farmers. “This will help farmers sell their produce and ensure certified produce to traders or companies,” said Ashok Kumar Yadav, advisor, national accreditation board, Apeda. The portal will also have a payment gateway and logistic agencies, said Yadav.
Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh said currently 2.25 million hectares have been brought under organic farming, up from 0.7 million hectares three years ago, under the ‘Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana’. “After Sikkim, now Meghalaya is also heading towards being declared an organic state. Private sector has also started working with farmers,” he said.
The agriculture department expects the 50,000-hectare area to come under organic farming in the northeast region in the coming years.
“Consistent volume and quality of organic produce is currently not available because of small land holding of farmers and lack of technology. The outlay of Rs 400 crore this year has helped in expand acreage,” said Pravesh Sharma, managing director of startup Sabziwala, a retail fruits and vegetables chain. “Further, with focus on marketing and brand building by the government will give a push to the sale of organic produce.”
According to Apeda, the area under certified organic produce has been continuously increasing since 2003-4, when it was 42,000 hectares. “In 2016-17, exports were valued at Rs 2,478 crore, with annual growth at 12-14%. However, the domestic market, at tentatively Rs 1,000 crore, is growing much faster at 15% to 20%,” said Yadav.