Pakistan needs to promote organic farming which has potential of niche markets for local high-value, non-conventional, indigenous and local agricultural products such as medicinal herbs, according to the member, export, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ahmad Jawad.
Organic farming is the best option for producing quality and healthy agriculture products on cheaper costs to cater to domestic needs besides attracting international market. Some legislation will have to be made to promote organic farming to keep the country’s environment, soil and water clean as India has done, he said, adding that it saves the land from losses because of erosion and soil degradation, besides improving soil fertility.
Europe has been able to increase organic farming on maximum scale. Italy, alone has more than 30,000 certified organic farmers and India had done proper legislation for promotion of organic farming and exported a huge quantity of agriculture products produced by organic farming in 2004. Similarly, Iran also rapidly switched on in this regard. Unfortunately Pakistan is lagging behind, he said.
The subsidies for conventionally-produced food currently limited the growth of organic agriculture. Although organic products and its market outlets are limited, premium prices may boost the market. He said that the country had been spending huge amounts of foreign exchange on fertiliser imports when organic fertiliser was readily available in the country. The government provided a subsidy of Rs 45 billion on fertilisers to farmers during the first nine months of the fiscal year 2011-12, which needed to be converted and used in the infrastructure of agriculture interims of cold storages, pack houses, modern agri labs and R & D.
There is a dire need for local farmers to switch towards organic farming to save billions of rupees spent on imports and the government may also help farmer community in this regard. However, the main hurdle in moving towards organic farming in Pakistan is the certificate issuing authority. Those who are applying for organic farming, they get their certificate from abroad. Ahmad Jawad stressed that some local body should be established to issue the certificate. He said India has been issuing certificate for organic farming and that was accepted in EU countries.
Similarly, Ahmad Jawad was of the view that sugarcane waste were the best organic fertiliser and there were more than 83 sugarcane mills in the country to utilise the waste. There are other alternate sources of fertilisers; as Thar coal white ashes could be utilised as alternate fertiliser which has 7.5 percent potash. Even banana leaves and animal dung could be utilised as fertiliser.
Organic fertiliser not only produces healthy produce but also helps maintain soil productivity while chemical fertilisers damaged soil fertility with the passage of time, as we are witnessing in the Kinnow orchards; Kinnow taste is gradually lost. “It is time to change our mindsets to lead the country towards healthy and cheap agricultural production and help develop sustainable economy,” Ahmad Jawad said.