Severe energy crisis, high prices of chemical fertilisers and growing demand for organic food have pushed hundreds of farmers across Pakistan to adapt to organic farming. The organic farming has also helped improve food export of Pakistan as the total export value of organic cotton, dry fruit, fresh fruit, rice, vegetables etc stands at dollars 100 million.
Agriculture experts are, however, of the view the export of organic foods can be doubled in the next couple of years if a proper certification of the food is ensured. At the moment, the total area under organic agriculture in the country is above 70,000 hectares and experts say the area for organic agriculture may treble in the next five years, if the current trend continues.
Kuch Khaas, a community space for interaction, public discourse and civic engagements in Islamabad, helps organic farmers to arrange a ‘Farmers Market’ on its premises each week to support and promote the organic foods. Aftab Ahmed Siddiqui, an organic farmer, told Business Recorder the demand for the food was growing with each passing day. “The people have started knowing hazards of the processed food and are fast turning to the organic foods,” he said.
Siddiqui sells organic milk, cheese, vegetables and curd at the Farmers Market. “We deliver milk and other milk-related products at homes as well if someone places order for it,” he said. Talking about certification and standard of the organic food, he said there was no proper certification system as the products were being sold using co-operative farming system.
“Hundred percent organic foods is almost impossible given the modernisation and other ever changing circumstances but we put our best to grow the food by using natural manure,” he said. Muhammad Farooq, Director at National Institute of Organic Agriculture in Islamabad, said organic agriculture had rapidly developed world-wide during last few years and was now being practiced in approximately 110 countries of the world including Pakistan.
“It is a safe food and environment-friendly; therefore more and more people are demanding the organic products,” he said. Farooq said his institute was in the process of establishing a well-equipped laboratory where standard and quality of the organic food could be checked and verified. “We need a large amount of money and expertise to set up the laboratory; therefore it may take eight to 10 years to materialise,” he added.