Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh lead in earmarking special organic farming zones

NEW DELHI: After turning Sikkim into a fully organic state, India is now looking at a "cluster" approach to increase area under chemical-free farming in other states. Many states have already started earmarking exclusive organic farming zones, with Maharashtra leading the pack with 932 exclusive clusters followed by Madhya Pradesh (880), Rajasthan (755), Uttar Pradesh (575), Uttarakhand (550) and Karnataka (545).

The Centre's overall plan is to develop 10,000 clusters (one cluster of 20 hectare each) across the country for promoting organic farming to cater to growing domestic demand and the high export potential of such crops. The aim is to increase cultivated area under organic farming from nearly 8 lakh hectares at present to 10 lakh hectares by 2017-18. The states have, so far, identified over 7,500 clusters.

Under this plan, 50 or more farmers can form a cluster. Every farmer will be provided Rs 20,000 per acre in three years for seed, harvesting of crops and transporting produce to the market under the 'Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana' (traditional agriculture development plan) of the agriculture ministry. The government has allocated Rs 297 crore under the scheme for 2016-17. Besides, an additional amount has been allocated for creating organic value chain for north-eastern states.

"The method is expected to increase domestic production and certification of organic produce. Since organic products are grown without the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides with an environmentally and socially responsible manner, it is important to adopt this approach by involving farmers at grass-root level", said a government official.

During 2013-14, Madhya Pradesh had over 2.32 lakh hectare of cultivable land under organic farming, the largest, followed by Maharashtra (85,536 hectare) and Rajasthan (66,020 hectare).

According to Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) of the commerce ministry, India had, during 2015-16, produced 1.35 million tonne (MT) of organic products which includes sugarcane, oilseeds, cereals & millets, cotton, pulses. The total volume of export during 2015-16 was 2,63,687 MT.

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