Panaji, June 27th (IANS): Amid a sharp decline in tourist flows, Goa appears to be preparing to create a new footprint in organic farming.
It is not just the absence of tourists that has rocked Goa in the wake of the more than a year-old pandemic. With interstate borders frozen at the start of Janta’s curfew last year, the resulting shortage of essentials such as milk, eggs, meat, and most importantly agricultural products, seems to have sparked a push to grow local organic produce to fill the gap to close between demand and supply.
Earlier this week, the state Department of Agriculture conducted a review of 500 organic farming clusters spread across 10,000 acres of land across all 12 income subdivisions of the state. The review was led by the Department’s Minister Chandrakant Kavlekar.
While the initiative was launched in 2018, the move of the organic cluster picked up speed amid the scarcity of vegetables, pulses and grains after the pandemic.
âIn all of these clusters, we trained farmers in organic farming methods. The government won’t just stop at training. The overriding goal is to support these farmers in marketing their products, âsays Kavlekar.
The 500 organic clusters are managed by more than 12,000 registered farmers with small land holdings.
Traditional agriculture in Goa includes growing crops such as paddy, cashew, coconut, and seasonal vegetables and legumes. However, rising property prices, high labor costs and declining agricultural holdings with each generation have made agriculture less attractive over the years compared to mining, tourism and service employment.
However, organic farming can turn the economic disadvantage of small farms into a profitable business, Agriculture Director Ulhas Kakode said, adding that farmers could get a 50 percent state subsidy for organic inputs for their crops if they used chemical pesticides and fertilizers avoid.
“This is just the first step,” he said.
According to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, traditional Goan crops such as coconuts, paddy nuts and cashews can be organically grown before other items are added to the list.
The Prime Minister also said that Goa has the potential to be declared a fully organic state in the near future, while calling for integrated organic farming practices.
âThere will be a demand for vermi cultures. Farmers have to provide the material for organic fertilizer. If we have an integrated agriculture and dairy farm, farmers will benefit, âsaid Sawant.
In recent years, individual farmers have grown and harvested isolated agricultural and horticultural innovations, including strawberries, which are a rarity in Goa, setting up an organic farming university.
According to the Agriculture Minister, such a university could help reverse the neglected sector and open up fallow agricultural land for productive use.
“It will also give the youth a new direction,” said Kavlekar.