Faced with 66 per cent decline in organic exports from Uttarakhand in 2022-23, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and the state government have chalked out plans to promote products to boost shipments. The state is all set to set up mandis for organic produce so that once 50 per cent area target under organic is achieved by 2025, farmers will not face any hurdles in marketing their products.

Organic exports from Uttarakhand slid to 97 tonnes worth ₹4.2 crore ($0.5 million) in 2022-23 from 285 tonnes worth ₹11.6 crore ($1.7 million) in 2021-22.

Releasing a report prepared by Yes Bank on strategies to boost organic exports from Uttarakhand, APEDA Chairman Abhishek Dev said that a similar report for Sikkim will be unveiled next month. The state government has agreed in principle to implement the suggestions of the report after a buyer-seller meet organised by APEDA in Dehradun on January 12.

Dev said though medicinal plant products, pulses and cereals were the largest contributors, together capturing about 90 per cent of the export volumes, there are several other products like jaggery, vegetables and essential oils which have great potential in the export market.

In the buyer-seller meet last week, two consignments of one tonne, each of fresh vegetables were flagged off to the United Kingdom and Bahrain. Even some deals with buyers from Lebanon were completed during the meeting itself, said Vinita Sudhanshu, DGM, APEDA.

According to the report, the decline in organic export from the state was due to an overall economic downturn in the global economy, majorly in the developed import markets. Besides, delisting of four to five certification bodies by the European Union for categories ‘D’ and ‘A’ following detection of Ethylene Oxide (ETO) in consignments of organic products has also affected.

Due to detection of ETO and residues above maximum permissible limit (MRL), EU has placed certain products under high risk category and has also added mandatory testing requirements, adversely affecting the trade.

Further, there is no progress made after withdrawal of conformity assessment recognition by USDA’s national organic program (NOP) in January 2021. The moratorium of 18 months also ended in June 2022. Earlier the US was recognising APEDA’s National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) under which approved certification agencies were issuing organic certification.

Dev said discussion with the US has been continuing and in the interim it has recognised 10 agencies including an Indian company OneCert International to carry out certification, on basis of which Indian consignments are accepted in the US. He also said that once the Uttarakhand State Organic Certification Agency (USOCA), the oldest government organic certification body in India, receives approval from USDA NOP, it will help boost shipments from Uttarakhand.

Yes Bank study has also identified some supply side issues including increase in certification costs, logistics issues and pest damage to crops like amaranth and rajma that affected exports adversely last year.

Uddham Singh Nagar and Haridwar districts (both in plain region) together alone account for over 90 per cent of the total fertilizer consumption in the state. Similarly, the state accounts for only 0.2 per cent of total chemical pesticides used in the country.

In 2022-23, Uttarakhand’s organic area (under NPOP) increased to 1.05 lakh hectares, of which six per cent was under wild cultivation as against 41,000 hectares in 2018-19. In 2022-23, the organic production was 43,900 tonnes and additional 106 tonnes of organic produce were collected from wild areas, taking the total to over 44,000 tonnes.