Agriculture

Farmer’s Notebook: Growing Organic Products Isn’t the Problem, Selling Them Is

Farmers have little access to marketing facilities, making organic agriculture unviable for many, Dr Narsimhan told The Wire.

Dr Narasimhan. Credit: M.J. Prabu

Dr Narasimhan. Credit: M.J. Prabu

While the country debates the government’s decision to import pulses, Dr Narasimhan, a senior physician who has been a farmer for 60 years, is a worried man. He is an avid organic farmer and also trains others in organic cultivation techniques. His worry is that organic products are not being marketed at a good price.

“Compared to a decade ago, today every village across the country knows the importance of organic agriculture. But the problem lies in selling the produce, not in the inputs or methods,” he said.

We cannot compare organic agriculture to any other vocation, he said, as the crops are more diverse, infection resistance and yield well, but the price they get in the local market makes farmers feel frustrated and bitter.

“Drought, floods, heavy rains, is all part of the farming work and we have seen several of them over our years of farming. Nothing has changed much. Yes, the talk of global warming and the natural clock being altered is seen, since suddenly we get downpours in the middle of summer or some new insects which devastate our crops,” he said. Added to all this is the lack of adequate returns.

“We spend Rs 35,000-37,000 on paddy and after waiting for six months we get an income of Rs 45,000. It makes many farmers like me wonder whether we should continue farming or sell our lands to realtors,” he continued.

Farmer's Notebook.“Since I am also a medical doctor by profession, I don’t feel the pinch. But in a country like ours where there are numerous small farmers with less than two acres of land, how can they manage to survive with the income their lands generate?” Narasimhan asked.

Governments have come and gone, but how many agricultural officials can truthfully say that they have done something worthwhile for farmers? If Narasimhan is to be believed, a large number of them are ignorant of how agriculture in this country occurs.

Farmers do not need technology or advice on how to grow their produce, Narasimhan said. What they need is marketing help: more marketing outlets and better marketing facilities.

The real bottleneck is only after the harvest, he added. The hunt for a buyer is the most tiring part of being a farmer.

“And do you know that in organic farming, it is not the farmer or the consumer who makes money the organic input suppliers and the traders who sell it at 30% more than what they pay to the farmer,” Narasimhan said.

Especially in a state like Tamil Nadu, the chances of good marketing for organic produce is quite minimal. If the trader or consumer knows the farmer well they accept it and there is no need for any organic certification, otherwise even if you have all the documents you cannot get a good price.

But what about the present government’s talk in the media on e-farming, marketing and so on?

“I personally don’t know, I only read it in the newspaper and saw some clippings on television. Why talk about what happens in the prime ministers office when the local agriculture department official cannot be reached?” a frustrated Narasimhan asked.

It’s an irony that in a country where the agriculture department officials and those at agricultural universities are paid a monthly salary, farmers are left to depend only on their land and the seasons, Narasimhan continued. This is an unsustainable situation, unless we want to become dependent on other countries for food.

Those interested can reach Dr Narasimhan, RMO, Guruji Medical Trust, Tenangur, Vandavasi, Tamil Nadu; email: drmjn1940@gmail.com and mobile 09445382725.