With organic farming being pushed back into the cradle stage with infertile and microbe-less soil, paddy farmers who are venturing into organic farming are facing roadblocks not just at every turn, but even in marketing.
While a handful of farmers in the state were bold enough to grow rice without any pesticides and chemical fertilisers, they were forced to sell their produce along with the usual inorganically cultivated rice and at the same rate.
The culprit here was the certification process, or the lack of knowledge about it.
“We thought a certification from the Agriculture Department would be good enough for marketing, since the Department had been monitoring the cultivation right from the start,” said Thomas Kuttemperoor, who cultivated organic paddy and is a member of the Pattithanam Padasekhara Samithi, Changanassery.
To their chagrin, they found that the certificate attested by the Agricultural Officer was not enough for exporting or selling their product under the organic label.
Even the State Government that encouraged the farmers to attempt organic farming, had not detailed them about the certification process.
Joseph Tito, a retired professor from S B College, Changanassery, had contemplated for long before starting out on organic farming.
The first year that he and a group of 36 farmers tried out organic rice farming, untimely summer rains left them with a total loss.
“The second year, the yield was good in spite of the high cost of production in the case of organic rice.
But we were forced to sell the grains just for Rs 15 to Civil Supplies, where it got mixed with the usual rice, making our efforts to go waste,” said Joseph Tito.
One of the reasons that make organic rice cultivation expensive is the labour cost.
“In organic farming, you will need to use at least five sacks of organic manure in place of one sack of chemical fertiliser and this increases labour.
Besides, the yield gets better only after a couple of years,” said Thomas Kuttemperoor.
In paddy fields like those of Joseph Tito’s, the continuous organic farming has revived the microbial life of the soil, making it richer.
Farmers are holding talks with several certification agencies which are recognised internationally before they start out on the next crop.