Sikkim becomes India’s first organic state

Kolkata (PTI): Sikkim has become India’s first fully organic state by converting around 75,000 hectares of agricultural land into sustainable cultivation.

“We have achieved fully-organic status in the end of December. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will formally announce this at a sustainable agriculture conference in Gangtok on January 18,” Sikkim Organic Mission’s executive director Dr Anbalagan told PTI.

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He said around 75,000 hectares of agricultural land was gradually converted to certified organic land by implementing organic practices and principles as per guidelines laid down in National Programme for Organic Production.

It was 12 years ago in 2003 when the Pawan Chamling-led government decided to make Sikkim an organic farming state through a declaration in the legislative assembly.

Later the entry of chemical inputs for farmland was restricted and their sale banned. Farmers therefore had no option but to go organic.

Organic cultivation is free of chemical pesticides and chemical fertilisers as it tries to strike a harmonious balance with a complex series of ecosystems.

In the long term, organic farming leads in subsistence of agriculture, bio-diversity conservation and environmental protection, agriculture secretary Khorlo Bhutia said. Sustainable farming will also help in building the soil health resulting in sustainable increased crop production, he said.

Besides it will also boost the tourism industry in the tiny landlocked Himalayan state.

Resorts have already been marketing themselves as completely organic where tourists can pluck, cook and relish fresh organic food from their kitchen gardens.

Bestowed with varied agro-climatic condition, some of the major crops in Sikkim include large cardamom, ginger, turmeric, off-season vegetables, flowers, Sikkim mandarin, kiwi, buck wheat, paddy maize and millets.

As Sikkimese farmers were never dependent heavily on chemicals, the yield per hectare has not been affected by organic farming.

“There was only limited use of chemical fertilisers prior to 2003 and the crop cultivation depended on low external inputs. Farmers were traditionally familiar in production and use of farm yard manure and compost. In general, there was no set back in productivity,” the agriculture secretary, said.

The use of chemical fertiliser and pesticides was only about 8-12 kg per hectare, officials said.

To ensure availability of organic manures and pesticides, the government trained farmers on producing it, they said adding a bio-fertiliser production unit was set up at Majitar.

Organic produce command a premium price in the market both inside the country and outside as it is becoming a craze among health and environment conscious people. According to estimates, Sikkim produces around 80,000 million tonnes of farm products.

The total organic production in the country is estimated to be around 1.24 million tonnes while the total area under organic farming is 0.723 million hectares.

A number of other states in India like Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Kerala are now trying to become organic.

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