The organic farming conundrum

Reshma religiously mixes cow dung and manure in the soil in her farm, hoping for a better yield at least this time around. Reshma is a 22-year old smallholder farmer in a village outside Hyderabad. She is a part of the growing army of farmers in India who have recently taken the leap from conventional to organic farming with the anticipation of premium returns and healthy farms. In this transition, synthetic chemical fertilizers are replaced with natural and bio-materials, such as neem cake and cow dung, and chemical pesticides are replaced with neem oil and bio- pesticides. All this is done to compete in the global organic market, which is worth $64 billion.

In a rude backlash, in the first year her yields dropped to half and her net income to less than a one tenth of what she made before making the switch. While the second year saw a marginal increase in yield, her net income has only improved to about a third of her previous returns. She is yet to claim the premium promised on her products as they do not fall in the “organic” category yet.

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