Bringing market to farmer imperative for success of Organic Sikkim

For positively employing organic farming practices, Sikkim became India’s first totally organic state in 2016. Organic farming means farming free of chemical inputs and this means it will completely rely on traditional skills. As a result in the long term, organic farming leads to sustainable agriculture, bio-diversity protection and environmental security. It will advance soil healthiness for sustainable abundance in crop production.

According to the definition of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study team on organic farming, “organic farming is a system which avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives etc.) And to the maximum extent rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection”. (http://agritech.tnau.ac.in/org_farm/orgfarm_introduction.html).

Of course we cannot deny the health benefits of organic farming, as organic food leads to better health through reduction of pesticide exposure for all and increased nutritional quality. In order to comprehend the significance of eating organic food from the viewpoint of toxic pesticide contagion, we need to look at the entire picture—from the harvesters who do the esteemed work of producing food, to the waterways from which we drink, the air we breathe, and the food we eat. Organic food can nourish us and keep us healthy without producing the toxic effects of chemical agriculture. (https://www.beyondpesticides.org/programs/organic-agriculture/why-organic/health-benefits)

Many scientists argue that the various benefits of organic farming for small farmers all over the world include a high premium, low capital investment, the ability to achieve higher premiums in the market, and the ability to use traditional knowledge. Though the benefits of Organic Farming for small farmers indicates the price of organic food being higher than conventional food and requiring less capital investment than chemical farming, farmers having the advantage of the possibility of making use of the traditional knowledge but also face limitations like organic farming being very labor intensive and more seriously, marketing organic produce may be challenging for a small farmer. Since the volume of organic food production is low it is very difficult to implement social security measures, such as a minimum support price.

When it comes to making Sikkim a totally organic state we should appreciate the state's good faith and its effort to provide farmers with opportunities for practicing organic farming; However, with reference to the ‘Market’ - this market is not very well known to most farmers, especially those living in the villages. Furthermore, info about it is not readily available to cultivators in the villages. (https://www.organicfacts.net/organic-farming-small-farmers.html)

If ignored, the deficiency of adequate technical and market info, and economic support will be a huge impediment in Sikkim emerging as a totally organic state. So spreading awareness about the opportunities and challenges for Sikkim's organic products in the domestic and international market is of primary concern for continued progress of the organic agriculture program in this state.

Therefore, how is the state going to bring awareness to the farmers about market opportunities so that they are able to earn the benefits of organic farming? At the same time, the relationship of producer, distributor, seller and consumer, cannot/should not be ignored. Equally important in making the state ‘Organic’ and successful, is the freedom of choice of the seller & consumer. In the era of globalization and especially where every country has shifted towards liberal market there should not be monopoly over market by the state. But the state should invest in new kind of policies and technologies that will actually influence organic Sikkim.

[the writer is a Ph. D. Research Scholar from Sribadam, West Sikkim]