COIMBATORE: Over the years, farmers from rain-fed areas and groundwater irrigated areas, are increasingly turning to organic cultivation, despite the risks and additional effort involved.
“Liberal use of pesticides and insecticides affects soil quality and productivity and thus more farmers are turning to organic farming,” said K V Palanisamy of Kethanur village, Tirupur district. Palanisamy not only practices organic farming, but he has taken it upon himself to spread awareness of this farming method in his village.
According to him, consumers are the main source of support and motivation for any organic farmer. “Customer patronage has been increasing slowly but steadily, across the state,” he said. While organic farming is more labour intensive than its conventional counterpart, and labour shortage is sometimes acute, Palanisamy says that farmers endure the hurdles as organic produce is steadily becoming popular.
Even though the exact number of organic farmers in the state is not known, there are about 230 organic farmers in Tamil Nadu who have received internationally recognised Organic Certification. S R Sundararaman, an organic farmer from Sathyamangalam in Erode district is a pioneer of organic farming. He is also engaged in guiding other farmers and delivering lectures on organic farming practises throughout the state.
“Even though it is easier to control pests with chemical pesticides than organic ones, organic produce is poison free and this is what the customer values. Besides, this farming method is environment-friendly,” said K V Palanisamy. Institutions such as Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) and government departments also encourage farmers to adopt organic cultivation.
Even though the prices of organic produce are high, when compared to conventional farm produce, consumers don’t mind paying extra for a healthier option. But with increasing patronage, prices may come down a bit. A major problem that organic farmers face is that they do not get government subsidies, unlike the conventional farmers. “Thus, even though organic farming is not as cost intensive as the conventional method, since it is not subsidized, such farmers in India have to bear all costs themselves. This is one reason why prices are highter,” said R Selvam, state coordinator of Tamil Nadu Organic Farmers Federation said. As of now, farmers can sustain this livelihood only by selling their produce at higher prices.
Environmentalist C Srinivasan popularly known as Vellore Srinivasan of Indian Green Service (IGS), a non-governmental organisation, said that increasing awareness among the public on the benefits of organic farm produce, is important. The NGO conducts several seminars and workshops across the state to spread awareness.
Indian Green Service also offers professional guidance to farmers who wish to take up organic farming and the public who wish to adopt rooftop organic farming. Srinivasan says that more farmers would take up organic farming only if public patronage increases.