Substantial budget allocation, certification subsidy, inputs and marketing support among the suggestions for Stalin’s government
The Tamil Nadu government’s announcement that it will table a separate agricultural budget has sparked much discussion between farmers and agricultural forums. While they welcome the announcement, various demands crop up every day in the hope that the state’s very first farm budget will meet them.
Some farmers believe that the budget should give a major boost to organic farming. The demands range from the creation of exclusive retail stores for organic produce, to the creation of a state crop insurance agency, to the launch of an income commission to guarantee a minimum income for the workers. people involved in organic farming.
“Make it a mass practice”
The Safe Food Alliance Tamil Nadu (SFAT), a farmers’ organization, has gone so far as to say that the budget should make a separate allocation – about 30% of the total farm budget – for organic farming.
“It is true that organic farming is still an elitist concept in Tamil Nadu. This is how most of the concepts of the past emerged – initially elitist. If you want it to expand, then the government should be involved, ”said M Ananthoo, SFAT coordinator.
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Currently, organic farming is mainly practiced by individuals, usually as subsistence farming (for their own consumption). It can only be expanded and converted into a mass farming practice with help from the government, Ananthoo said. That is why there is a demand for a separate allocation in the budget, he added.
“The Center allocated 100 crore in 2014 for the development of organic farming. It was after this that many states expressed their interest in natural agriculture, ”he said. “Take Andhra Pradesh, for example. They started organic farming in 2018 in just three villages and now around 70,000 acres are cultivated through organic farming. There are many lessons Tamil Nadu can learn from Andhra.
Although organic farming is quite fashionable today, it faces several practical problems. A 2018 research paper published by Alagappa University, Karaikudi, identified some of them, such as problems in marketing production (such as obtaining certification), lack of support for marketing and distribution of production. ‘inputs such as bio-fertilizers, low yield, lack of government financial support and inability to meet export demand.
Grant for certification
Deputy Stalin’s government in the state is also expected to consider several procedural improvements while making a big announcement regarding organic farming, industry watchers have said. One of the main demands of farmers entering organic farming is to reduce the fees charged for organic certification by private bodies.
“Compared to private certification agencies, the state organic certification agency charges very low fees,” said R Sellammal, organic certification inspector at the Tamil Nadu Department of Organic Certification (TNOCD).
TNOCD, established in 2007, began issuing accreditation certificates to farmers from 2009. To date, it has certified around 1,400 individual farmers.
“We have three categories: small farmers, large farmers and groups. Farmers who own land less than 5 acres are small farmers and must pay 2,700 as a fee for annual certification. Those with more than 5 acres are big farmers and they have to pay 3,200 yen. These fees were set in 2007 and after that they have not been revised or increased, ”Sellammal said.
Private agencies collect fees on various bases such as square footage and products. Farmers must also pay for their accommodation and travel, etc., before collecting their certificates. So the fees would be 10 times higher, she said.
“To alleviate farmers’ fears about certification fees, the government may consider providing them with subsidies,” Sellammal added.
The implementation of the policy
E Somasundaram, professor and head of the Department of Sustainable Organic Agriculture at the Agricultural University of Tamil Nadu (TNAU), said it would be more than enough for the government to fully implement the existing organic farming policy.
“The policy was submitted to the government five years ago. It was formed with the help of departments like horticulture, plantations and crops, agriculture, animal husbandry and the University. But it has not yet been implemented. The policy has a lot of positives and it will be easy for the government to implement it once it makes big announcements about organic farming, ”Somasundaram said.
In Tamil Nadu, around 5,000 individual farmers – mostly small and marginal farmers – practice organic farming. Of these, only a few have organic certification, he said.
“There are almost 32 certification agencies in the state. We only have data on those who register with TNOCD. Farmers who register with the remaining agencies did not come into play, ”he said.
Three key initiatives
Somasundaram further suggested rewarding organic farmers with prizes and honors to take the segment to new heights. According to him, for organic farming to be successful in the state, the government should work on three fronts: subsidize inputs, provide incentives to farmers who prepare organic inputs themselves, and create a marketing network.
“In addition, the government can provide seeds, organic inputs, etc. These are available in large numbers at TNAU. These can be distributed not only to organic farmers but also to conventional farmers. Once they see the results of using organic inputs, in the long run, they too can turn to natural agriculture, ”he added.