Overall, the proposed society will provide a wide range of organic farming-related services; however, key details are missing at the moment
The Union cabinet approved the formation of a national-level multi-state co-operative organic society January 11, 2023. The announcement indicates that the government is also betting on organic farming to assist farmers in transitioning away from chemical-based agriculture.
Any primary agricultural credit societies, district, state and national level federations, multi-state co-operative societies and Farmers Producer Organisations (FPOs) can join this national-level co-operative society. The society aims to support organic products from the co-operative sector.
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Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had highlighted the need for a dedicated programme for a sustainable and mass transition to organic farming in its report Evidence (2004 - 20) on Holistic Benefits of Organic and Natural Farming in India.
The proposed society aims to provide an enabling ecosystem, assisting farmers in learning to grow organic food through technical assistance and capacity building. It also intends to assist farmers in transitioning in a sustainable manner while ensuring market access.
CSE discovered that the availability of indigenous organic seed is a major concern based on its own ongoing experience of growing food organically at Anil Agarwal Environment Training Institute, Rajasthan.
Indigenous organic seeds can boost agricultural productivity, food security and farmer income.
The proposed society aims to aid in preserving and promoting quality indigenous natural seeds through strategic research and development. This will be done with support from the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and the National Seed Corporation.
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It aims to increase the seed and varietal replacement rates by involving farmers in seed variety trials, as well as the production and distribution of branded, certified seeds through the use of various co-operative structures.
If done correctly, this will help increase agricultural production in the country, reduce reliance on imported seeds, create local livelihood opportunities and thus boost the rural economy.
Through its member co-operatives, the society also hopes to manage the entire supply chain of organic products produced by co-operatives and related entities.
It will provide institutional support to its member organic farmers for organic product aggregation, certification, testing, procurement, storage, processing, branding, labelling, packaging, logistic facilities, marketing and financial assistance.
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It has made provisions for appointing market-compliant accredited organic testing labs and certification bodies. CSE observed from its work on market access that a shorter supply chain would benefit farmers. In this case, the co-operative will assist them in moving up the supply chain, resulting in increased farm income.
Market functions, in our experience, are complex. Dedicated support is required to unlock and meet local and global demand, as well as increase consumption of organic products in both domestic and global markets.
It is anticipated that this will be accomplished through large-scale aggregation, branding and marketing channels. It will assist farmers in obtaining a higher price for their organic produce.
However, a programme of this magnitude will require a dedicated budget, which is not yet disclosed. Even the name of the nodal agency or ministry (very likely Ministry of Co-operation, Government of India), the number of farmers and co-operatives and the land it will cover are yet to be revealed.
Given the National Dairy Development Board’s role in promoting co-operatives across the country, its role as the promoter of the society will provide critical support. This announcement will aid farmers in transitioning from chemical-based farming to organic farming.
Also, looking at the success of Anand Milk Union Ltd, it will be important to bring them on board and also leverage the institutions, such as the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd and the Tribal Co-Operative Marketing Development Federation of India Ltd.
Overall, the proposed society will provide a wide range of organic farming-related services, including capacity building, technical guidance, seed input, aggregation, certification, testing, procurement, storage, processing, branding, labelling, packaging, logistic facilities, marketing both locally and globally and financial assistance to organic farmers.
However, key details are missing and this can be viewed as a promising announcement awaiting further clarity.
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