Organic food production in the country more than doubled to 3.8 million tonne in 2010-11, even as the area under the chemicals-free cultivation shrank. Area under organic farming declined 3% to 4.42 million hectares in last fiscal, official data showed.
In 2009-10, the output of organic products was 1.70 million tonnes, while the average was 4.55 million hectares, as per the data presented in the Rajya Sabha last week by minister of state for agriculture Harish Rawat.
He said that to determine the impact of organic farming on soil health and crop quality, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) had conducted a study, Network Project on Organic Farming (NPOF), in 2004-05. “The limited study conducted under this project revealed that the organic system of plant nutrition helped in improving the organic carbon and microbial biomass in the soil,” Rawat said.
It also improved the bio-chemical properties of a few crops like ginger, turmeric, chillies, garlic, tomato, peas, cabbage, French beans and so on, he added. Besides, the content of micro-nutrients like iron, zinc, manganese and copper improved significantly, he said.
“Organic foods, in general are reportedly safe for human health as they are almost free from pesticide residues and heavy metals,” Rawat noted.
According to an agriculture ministry official, India exported 54,000 tonnes of organic food items that were worth Rs. 591 crore in 2008-09.
Indian organic exports include cereals, pulses, honey, tea, spices, oil seeds, fruits, vegetables, cotton fibre, cosmetics and body care products. Asia, Latin America and Australia are important producers and exporters of organic foods.
Global sales of organic produce touched $50.9 billion in 2008 from $25 billion in 2003. Consumer demand for organic products is mainly from North America and Europe.