By Prof. GC Samaraweera and PNMM Wijerathna, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ruhuna
Organic farming refers to farming methods that combine traditional farming methods with modern farming technologies. He has always used rotation crops, naturally controlling pests, diversifying crops and livestock, and improving the soil with additions of compost and animal and green manures.
Looking at the evolution of organic farming around the world, in 1924 Rudolf Steiner’s course on biodynamic farming sparked the evolution of organic farming in Europe. Organic farming was established in its own right in the 1930s and 1940s, developed in Britain by Lady Eve Balfour and Sir Albert Howard, in Switzerland by Hans Mueller, in the United States by JIRodale and in Japan by Masanobu Fukuoka and the 4th king. of Bhutan in 1970.
If we consider the current state of organic farming in the world, 179 countries now have organic farming. In North America, 3.2 million hectares of farmland are managed organically, including 2 million in the United States and 1.2 million in Canada, representing 0.8 percent of the total farm area of the region. Australia (35.7 million hectares), Argentina (3.6 million hectares) and China (3.1 million hectares) are considered the largest areas for organic farming.
In Europe, 2.9 percent of the agricultural area is organic (European Union: 7.2 percent). The countries with the largest organic agricultural areas are Spain (2.1 million hectares), Italy (1.9 million hectares) and France (1.7 million hectares). Organic farms today represent 15.3% of total farms in Switzerland, compared to 6.9% 20 years ago. By 2020, the number had increased by 54%.
Regarding the Asian context, in 2017, the total area of ââorganic farming in Asia was almost 6.1 million producers, most of them from India. The main countries in terms of area are China (3 million hectares) and India (nearly 1.8 million hectares). In Thailand, the government has launched a large-scale project to convert over 100,000 hectares of land to organic rice production in three years based on the support plan.
The global organic market continues to grow globally and has passed the US $ 100 billion mark. The United States with 40.6 billion euros is the largest organic market in the world, followed by Germany (10.9 billion euros) and France (9.1 billion euros). The US organic sector continues on its upward trajectory, gaining new market share and breaking records, with consumers using more organic products than ever before.
In Asia, the most important consumer markets were Japan and South Korea. Japan is one of the biggest markets for organic products, after Europe and the United States, due to its large population, high income level and health orientation due to aging population.
Organic farming laws
In view of the organic standards around the world, Japan has already enacted laws on organic farming and labeling of its products. Nationally, Bangladesh, Vietnam and other countries have adopted national organic standards, while Cambodia has issued a roadmap for promoting organic farming. National organic standards have been revised in China, the Philippines and South Korea. However, not all countries have organic farming regulations in place, and for those that do, regulations vary from country to country.
In the US, EU, Canada and Japan, organic standards are formulated and overseen by the government, which means legislation is in place to ensure that only certified growers use the term “organic.” . Where countries do not have organic laws or government guidelines, certification is handled by nonprofit organizations and private companies.
South Korea has a framework in place to support policies such as 4,444 direct payment plans. The Philippines has prioritized the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) in Amendment RA10068 and Organic Law No. 2010, âand PGS is still very strong in Indonesia.
Organic foods contain much less or no synthetic pesticide residues compared to conventionally produced foods. Some evidence suggests that organic foods are more nutritious (for example, they have higher concentrations of vitamin C, total antioxidants and total omega-3 fatty acids, and higher omega-3 to -6 ratios) . Considering the environmental consideration, organic farming systems are more environmentally friendly than conventional farming systems.
For example, studies have shown that organic farming systems consistently have higher soil carbon levels, better soil quality, and less soil erosion compared to conventional systems.
In addition, organic farms generally exhibit greater plant diversity, greater wildlife diversity (insects, soil fauna and microbes, birds), and often greater diversity of habitats and landscapes. In a study of eight countries in Western and Eastern Europe, insecticides and fungicides consistently have negative effects on biodiversity, with insecticides also reducing the potential for biological control in agricultural systems.
Difficulties to overcome
Recently, Bhutan has garnered a lot of international attention as it attempts to become the world’s first 100% organic country by 2020. However, only around 10% could be achieved. Bhutan is now striving to achieve 100 percent organic farming by 2035. Many studies have compared the yield differences between organic and conventional systems and according to these studies the yield averages are 8 to 25 percent lower in organic systems.
In Bhutan, all conventional land (13,943 hectares) accounted for 18.6 percent of total cultivable land, but an uneven share of total land benefits (24.3 percent). In addition, total agricultural production decreases quantitatively by -14.7%, and as a result, the prices of crops increase sharply.
Sri Lanka is also aiming to achieve 100 percent organic agriculture by banning the import of inorganic fertilizers by 2021. With the aim of converting Sri Lankan agriculture to 100 percent organic agriculture, the government has taken the decision policy to ban the import of agrochemicals with immediate effects. effect. This decision surprised many people in agriculture and other related fields. Many discussions started to surface, highlighting the pros and cons of going organic as a country.
The ability of organic agriculture to continue to expand globally will be primarily determined by its financial performance relative to conventional agriculture.
The main factors that determine the profitability of organic farming include crop yields, labor and total costs, price premiums for organic products, potential for reduced income during the organic transition period (typically three years) and the potential cost savings due to reduced reliance on non-organic products. -renewable resources and purchased inputs.
Based on this, Sri Lanka to achieve its own goal and objectives related to organic farming, a successful plan should be implemented with the review and monitoring of transitional minimum price support for organic products to cover the current deficit in premiums for organic products to help organic farmers.
Initiatives for the collection and dissemination of data on the organic sector, including unallocated reports on organic farming and the progress of national agriculture, strengthening the capacity of the national extension system to meet the needs of the organic farming should be taken. Nurturing and protecting local knowledge about crops and farming methods, using the banking and financial services sector to become a medium to long term strategy to promote and support organic farming can be helpful in this case.
Path to organic
When taking into account the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis) of 100 percent organic adoption in Sri Lanka, one of the main strengths is the substantial demand for organic farming. consumers for organic food. The availability of land and knowledge of the preparation of natural pesticides and fertilizers, strong political support, similarity with traditional agriculture, compatibility with good local agricultural knowledge can also be identified as strengths.
However, the high cost of production, lack of awareness of the benefits of organic farming, lack of credit, limitation in sourcing raw materials, lack of coordination between different agencies, limited technical expertise may be identified as weaknesses.
There are opportunities for organic farming, such as a growing market for organic products and the availability of effective extension services, promotion of a healthy lifestyle, sustainable use of natural resources, development of local organic manure suppliers, rural community strengthening, employment opportunities. On the other hand, threats include climate change and poor infrastructure, reduced yields and global competition.
Organic farming is more about long-term sustainability and the impact of our actions today on the future of the earth. Using natural forms of fertilizer and following organic farming guidelines allows us to stimulate our crops, but at the same time, helps restore lost nutrients to the soil.
While we cannot say that organic farming practices are definitely the future of farming, we must help extend the life of our home planet. However, at a time when farmers and crops in Sri Lanka are increasingly inclined to use chemical fertilizers, a strategic approach can be taken to gradually accustom farmers and farmers to using less chemical fertilizer and more organic fertilizers.