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India’s future as an organic powerhouse

India’s future as an organic powerhouse: Organic Area Farmland in India. Source: FiBL

India has great potential in the field of organic production. However, despite having 30% of the world’s certified organic producers, it accounts for just 3.3% (1.9 million hectares) of total organic cultivated area (57.8 million ha). The country’s organic food sector is expected to grow at 10% CAGR in the 2016-2021 period, and increase in value from US$386.32 million in 2015 to US$10.75 billion in 2025, according to APEDA data. The government has introduced various schemes to encourage organic farming in recent years, promoting exports from the north-eastern region and improved market linkages of producer clusters with agribusiness, phytochemical, organised retail and e-commerce operators.

Nevertheless, India’s organic agriculture faces multiple challenges, such as low yields, a reluctance of farmers to replace the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and high logistics costs. These issues have led to higher prices for consumers, thereby reducing the potential market. There is also a serious problem with waste due to supply chain inefficiencies.

In 2018-19, India’s 1.9 million ha of organic area represented 1.1% of total agricultural land, an increase of 8.8% from 2017. The main certified organic production areas are Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Sikkim, in the north-east of India has declared itself the world’s first “organic state”, with every metre of its 76,000 hectares of farmland certified organic since 2015. The primary crops grown in the state are fruits (Sikkim mandarin, pear, guava and kiwi); spices (ginger, turmeric and cherry pepper), flowers (cymbidium orchids, anthurium and rose) and mushrooms.

During the current lockdown to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, India saw an unprecedented surge in retail sales of organic food products, due to the perceived benefits for immunity, overall food quality, and easy availability through online/e-commerce channels (Source: Pureecoindia).

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Concerns over spike of Covid-19 cases in US produce sector

Concerns over spike of Covid-19 cases in US produce sector copyright. United Fresh facebook page, DNO Produce

© DNO Produce (United Fresh)

 

The US produce sector is alarmed by the growing number of coronavirus cases reported among fruit and vegetable packers, according to Reuters. Besides the health risks to staff, the problem is leading to labour shortages that threaten to disrupt US produce supplies. Health officials in the state of Washington report 600 agricultural workers testing positive for Covid-19 in Yakima Country in May, 62% of whom were from the apple industry. For figure until 10th June, the county had the highest per-capita infection rate on the west coast of the US. In Monterey County, California, known for its high concentration of vegetable farms, 39% of all Covid-19 cases were among agricultural workers.

And it’s not only on the west coast that there’s a problem. Immokalee (Florida), a tomato production hub, has also reported a spike in coronavirus cases. Given the importance of the fresh produce industry, the USDA and the FDA have said the government could use the Defense Production Act to protect fruit and vegetable packhouses and keep them in operation. The act would allow packers some liability protection should their employees fall sick with the virus.