The State Horticulture Mission (SHM) is planning to implement organic farming and certification in 2,000 hectares in the State. The programme is to be implemented initially in the three districts of Idukki, Wayanad and Kasaragod during 2014-15, under the guidance of the National Horticulture Mission (NHM).
Under the programme, financial assistance will be provided over a period of three years for groups of farmers covering an area of 50 hectares each. The aid will cover expenses on formation and maintenance of internal control system, documentation, and group certification by agency accredited by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA).
The programme was being implemented in only three districts at present as the NHM aid was intended for those districts which had high potential, K. Pratapan, Director, State Horticulture Mission, told The Hindu . The scheme would cover different crops under a specified area where groups of farmers joined together to form a cluster, he said.
The scheme is applicable to NHM-mandated crops, including banana, pineapple, mango, guava, litchi, pear, strawberry, passion fruit, cut flowers, pepper, cinnamon, clove, ginger, turmeric, cocoa, cashew, aromatic, and medicinal plants. Financial assistance will be provided for a period of three years to a maximum of Rs.5 lakh a group of farmers for certification and associated processes.
The charges for organic adoption would include cost of seeds and planting materials, organic fertilizers, organic manures, organic pesticides, biocontrol agents, biofertilizers, biopesticides, and permitted chemicals. Agencies should facilitate the buy back arrangement of organic produces and products, as per the guidelines of the programme.
Many farmers were willing to adopt organic farming practices, but lack of proper guidance and reluctance of banks to extend loan to them had deterred many among them. Banks were reluctant to extend loan to organic farmers, Jose Francis, a Kochi-based entrepreneur who operates a sales outlet for organic farm products, said.
Interestingly, studies conducted by established agencies have indicated high pesticide content in vegetables marketed in Kerala. A report prepared recently by the Food Quality Monitoring Laboratory under the Council for Food Research and Development (CFRD) indicated presence of pesticides beyond permissible limits which rendered several lots collected from the market unfit for human consumption. Organic farming practices have assumed greater relevance under the situation.
Financial aid will be provided for three years for groups of farmers under a State Horticulture Mission initiative.