Factors Driving the Shift to Organic Farming
The transition to organic farming in Himachal Pradesh has been driven by several factors, including:
Growing consumer demand for chemical-free fruits: As health consciousness increases among consumers, the demand for organically grown fruits has surged. Organic fruits are perceived as being healthier and free from harmful chemicals, making them a popular choice among discerning consumers.
Government initiatives promoting sustainable agriculture: The Indian government has been actively promoting sustainable agriculture practices, including organic farming. Various initiatives, such as subsidies and training programs, have encouraged fruit growers in Himachal Pradesh to adopt organic methods.
Realization among fruit growers of the benefits of organic farming: Fruit growers in Himachal Pradesh have recognized the numerous advantages of organic farming, including healthier soil, reduced pest infestations, and ultimately, higher yields. Organic practices lead to more resilient crops that are less susceptible to diseases and pests, resulting in better quality and quantity of produce.
With chemical-free produce selling for as high as ₹100/kg, fruit growers in Himachal Pradesh are increasingly switching to natural farming.
The fruit growers say the switch to natural farming has also brought down their input costs, thereby increasing the profit margin. Theog-based Shakuntala Sharma says, “A trader who saw the ‘natural product’ label on my produce at the local market at Dhamandri instantly bought all my fruits for ₹100 per kilogramme, which is much higher than what was being offered to other growers who had used pesticides on their fruit. Now, buyers turn up at my door. Not only do I sell my fruit for a high price, I also save ₹50,000- 60,000 that was ordinarily spent on pesticides.”
Sharma is among the farmers using the Subash Palekar Natural Farming (SPNF) technique, under which cow’s dung, herbs, and local resources are used to increase fertility and keep away pests.
Ravinder Chauhan, who grows apples on eight bighas of land, says apples grown through the natural farming technique had fetched him a whooping ₹ 4,200-4,500 per box this year. “The up and downs in the market do not affect me as much as buyers pay me a fixed rate in advance,” he said.
The chemical free, low cost and climate resilient SPNF technique is being promoted for agriculture and horticulture crops in Himachal Pradesh through the Prakritik Kheti Khushal Kisan Yojna (PK3Y), launched in 2018.
So far, 1,33,056 farmers, including over 12,000 apple farmers, have been practising natural farming in the hill-state over approximately 7,609 hectares of land.
Surender Mehta, a fruit grower from Lalpani Dochi village in the Chopal subdivision said traders from Jaipur and Delhi had lifted the product from his orchard and also paid him 10-15% higher than in the local market. His pears sold for ₹150 per kilogramme.
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Organic farming offers a number of benefits to fruit growers, including:
Improved soil health: Organic farming practices help to improve soil health by increasing organic matter and microbial activity. This leads to healthier plants and better yields.
Reduced reliance on chemicals: Organic farming reduces the need for synthetic chemicals, which can be harmful to human health and the environment.
Premium prices: Organic fruits often command higher prices in the market, as consumers are willing to pay for products that are grown without the use of harmful chemicals.
Export potential: Organic fruits are in high demand in international markets, and there is a growing export market for organic produce from Himachal Pradesh.
The government of Himachal Pradesh is also supporting the growth of organic farming in the state. The government has launched a number of initiatives to promote organic farming, including providing subsidies for organic certification and training programs for farmers.
Organic farming is a sustainable and profitable way to grow fruits in Himachal Pradesh. With the support of the government and the growing demand for organic produce, the future of organic farming in the state is bright.
The success of organic farming in Himachal Pradesh serves as a beacon of hope for sustainable agriculture in India. As more and more fruit growers embrace organic practices, the state is poised to become a national leader in organic production, setting an example for other regions to follow. The journey towards a more sustainable future is paved with such initiatives, where environmental consciousness and economic prosperity converge.