Over the next three years the government will facilitate one crore farmers to adopt natural farming for which Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled a detailed plan, starting from increasing production of bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides, the major inputs required to prevent any drop in yield, as well as a distribution network to ensure their availability.

Sources said over 65 lakh farmers (including those under certified organic cultivation) are reported to be practising natural farming but most of them are not identified by the government since they do not seek any official support. “The scheme announced by the government could be helpful for those farmers in raising productivity of crops as well as those who want to shift from chemical farming,” said an official.

“Government’s focus on regenerative farming will help India move towards reduction in carbon emissions from agriculture. The focus on integrated nutrient management aligns well with the overall vision of sustainability outlined in the Budget,” said Sanjiv Kanwar, Managing Director, Yara South Asia.

Without sharing details, the Finance Minister said “PM Programme for Restoration, Awareness, Nourishment and Amelioration of Mother Earth” (PM-PRANAM) will be launched to incentivise States to promote alternative fertilisers and balanced use of chemical fertilisers. She also announced that 500 new ‘waste to wealth’ plants under GOBARdhan (Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan) scheme will be established for promoting the circular economy with a total investment of ₹10,000 crore.

Buoying organic farming

Also 10,000 Bio-Input Resource Centres will be set up for creating a national-level distributed micro-fertiliser and pesticide manufacturing network, she said.

“GOBARdhan may prove to be a game-changer for the rural landscape and the livelihoods of farmers as it has the potential of transforming rural areas. There is an urgent need for sustainable waste management solutions and the government’s dedication to safe disposal of cattle and organic waste will not only benefit environment but also help raise income,” said Atul Patidar, CEO of agritech start-up Farmkart.

The Centre’s push for organic and natural farming in recent years has helped in spreading awareness about sustainable farm practices and as a result India has emerged to be among top three countries in the world where cultivated organic areas expanded maximum in 2020. Out of the world’s total 74.9 million hectare (mh) under organic farming, India has only 2.8 mh. In contrast, out of total 34 lakh organic producers in the world, 16 lakh farmers in India are into certified organic farming.

Worried over huge jump in fertiliser subsidy, the government has been promoting alternative fertilisers as well as increasing domestic production of urea to cut imports. Fertiliser Minister Mansukh Mandaviya last month said that the country would set the global fertiliser prices in 2024, as a few suppliers currently decide rates now. “I told global suppliers that we know how to make available alternate fertilisers. India has done this in the case of DAP by promoting SSP. We will ensure that farmers are not affected,” he said.

Meanwhile, fertiliser subsidy for next fiscal has been cut by 22 per cent to ₹1.75 lakh crore from ₹2.25 lakh crore in 2022-23 (RE).