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Tuesday, Aug 26, 2003

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Draft policy on organic farming in Kerala to be ready soon

G.K. Nair

Nelliampathy (Palakkad), Aug. 25

A DRAFT policy to be formulated soon will aim to make the entire State fully organic (Jaiva Keralam) on the lines of the universal literacy programme.

The discussions and deliberations at a two-day policy workshop here on `Organic sustainability of Kerala - a Global Model', organised jointly by the State Agriculture Department and the Confederation of Indian Industry (Southern Region), laid the framework for the draft policy.

Before submitting the draft policy to the State Government, one more sitting of the stakeholders would be held to have a final discussion on the points and issues to be incorporated in the policy, Mr K.R. Jyothilal, Director of Agriculture, said.

He said that the Government policy would focus on conversion of land area, products as per market-driven, apart from providing budgetary support. It would also extend support for certification and inputs, promote local certifying bodies; development of agronomic practices; giving of extension support and training to farmers while creating awareness to consumers; paradigm shift from quantity to quality and thereby increasing farmers income instead of yield; and rating of conversion to organic at local and district level, he said.

Sakshara Keralam (Literate Kerala) programme was launched and implemented in the State by involving the local bodies such as panchayats, blocks and district panchayats. It became a mass movement resulting in all the villages in the State achieving almost cent percent literacy.

Similarly, if the people are motivated and involved in implementing the policy by creating awareness among farmers and consumers throughout the State, gradually the Jaiva Keralam project could be a similar success, the speakers at the workshop said.

According to the State Industry Secretary, Mr P.H. Kurien, organic farming would give a boost to tourism in the State and it should be linked to Ayurveda as it has been playing a major role in attracting tourists. Those who practise Ayurveda and those who take up treatment under the Indian system of medicine could also play an important role in promoting organic farming, he said.

On the other hand, the educated unemployed in the State are at present averse to agriculture and they could be motivated to take it up if organic farming and marketing is classified as an organic agro-producing, processing and marketing sector. The farmers could be named `organic agri-businessmen', Mr Kurien added.

Senior Government officials, who attended the workshop at Poabs Organic Estates here on August 23 and 24, said the policy would cover budgetary allocation for promotion of organic farming in selected areas and with select crops. At the same time, input subsidy such as for seeds, vermin-compost and other organic manures in the initial stages of conversion would be recommended, they said.

According to them, development of the domestic market for organic agricultural products was inevitable to help improve the income of the farmers on the one hand and to save the people from intake of chemical residues on the other, because of consuming inorganically cultivated agricultural products, the experts pointed out.

According to M Jyothilal, initially there could be a certification agency for organic products for the domestic market, based on which labelling could be done. Similarly, for the produce from the farms under transition from inorganic to organic there could be a certification saying the "farm under conversion".

However, the certification is to ensure the farm management practices etc., are as per the regulations set for organic farming while the quality of the produce is a different issue which also needs to be taken care of. Certification by international agencies is a costly affair and it is beyond the reach of the small and medium farmers.

Currently there is demand for organic produce by the food industry in Kerala and it is not available in the required quantity. Mr T.R. Reghulal, Managing Director, Elite Foods Private Limited, Thrissur, and Vice-Chairman, CII (Southern Region), Kerala, pointed out.

Those participated in the discussions included Dr Subhash Mehta, Consultant, FAO, Dr Prabha Mahale, World Board Member, IFOAM, Dr C K George, Advisor, Peermade Development Society, Dr K Ravi, Advisor to Chief Minister of Kerala on Sustainable Development, Mr Jose Dominic, Managing Director, Escapade Resorts Private Limited, Mr Tommy Mathew, Elements Homestead Products Pvt. Limited, Kozhikode etc.

Those addressed the valedictory function included Mr P.J. Joseph, former State Education Minister, , Rev Mar Mathew Arakkal, Bishop of Kanjirappally.

The Jaiva Keralam (Thought leadership in sustainable development) workshop was supported by Poabs, National Horticulture Board and Agricultural Products Export Devlopment Agency (APEDA).

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