In a bid to give an impetus to organic farming, the Union Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has granted approval to the PM-PRANAM initiative. The initiative is designed to encourage states to adopt alternative, non-chemical fertilizers. The committee has also decided to extend the existing urea subsidy for a period of three years, commencing from FY23. The allocated budget for this subsidy amounts to Rs 3.68 trillion. In addition, the CCEA made two additional decisions pertaining to the fertilizer sector. Firstly, a subsidy of Rs 1,451 crore was approved to encourage the usage of organic manure. Secondly, the committee decided to introduce sulphur-coated urea (Urea Gold) to combat sulphur deficiency in the soil and minimize reliance on urea.
Organic fertilizers are increasingly being utilized to improve crop yields and there is a huge potential to use them as an alternative to conventional inputs. However, as their adoption in agriculture grows in India, there are several challenges hindering their widespread adoption.
Cost and Affordability
Organic fertilizers are often more expensive than conventional chemical fertilizers. The higher cost can pose a financial barrier for farmers, especially small-scale and resource-constrained farmers. Making organic fertilizers more affordable and providing financial support or subsidies can help mitigate this challenge and encourage wider adoption.
Investing in research and development to optimize organic fertilizer production methods and scale-up operations can lead to cost reductions over time. Implementing localized production facilities can further cut transportation expenses, making organic fertilizers more accessible and cost-effective for farmers. Education and training programs can also teach farmers about composting techniques and on-farm resource recycling, reducing the need for external inputs and minimizing overall expenses.
Collaborative efforts between agricultural experts, policymakers, and industry stakeholders are essential to create innovative financing models that support farmers in transitioning to organic practices. By fostering affordability and acknowledging the long-term environmental and soil health benefits, we can pave the way for sustainable agriculture and a greener future.
Certification and quality control
Organic fertilizers need to comply with specific standards and regulations to be certified as organic. The certification process can be complex and costly for manufacturers. In addition, ensuring the quality and consistency of organic fertilizers can be challenging due to variations in organic materials and composting processes.
To streamline the certification process, governments and certification bodies should work collaboratively to create standardized guidelines that are both practical and achievable for manufacturers. Offering financial incentives or grants to support smaller producers can encourage their participation in organic fertilizer production and certification.
Implementing rigorous quality control measures and regular testing can help maintain the integrity of certified organic fertilizers. Embracing technological advancements, such as blockchain and IoT devices, can provide transparency and traceability throughout the supply chain, ensuring consumers and farmers have confidence in the product's authenticity. Investing in research and innovation will further enhance the consistency and efficacy of organic fertilizers, solidifying their role in sustainable agriculture.
Scaling up organic fertilizer production
Meeting the increasing demand for organic fertilizers requires scaling up production capacity. This includes sourcing sufficient organic materials, setting up composting facilities, and ensuring quality control. Developing the necessary infrastructure and supply chains for large-scale organic fertilizer production can be a challenge.
Collaboration between farmers, waste management industries, and agricultural experts is crucial to establish a steady supply of organic materials for production. Public-private partnerships can aid in funding and constructing composting facilities that efficiently convert organic waste into high-quality fertilizers. Implementing best practices and technology-driven solutions can optimize production processes, enhancing productivity and reducing costs.
Training programs for farmers on composting and recycling can create a decentralized approach to fertilizer production, supplementing commercial endeavors. Knowledge-sharing platforms and networks can foster innovation and knowledge transfer within the industry, catalyzing the growth of sustainable agriculture through the widespread availability of organic fertilizers.
One example of a country that has made significant strides in organic fertilizer production is Denmark. Denmark is recognized for its advanced agricultural practices and commitment to sustainable farming methods. The country has invested heavily in research and development, focusing on optimizing organic fertilizer production techniques and enhancing the quality of organic products.
Danish farmers have adopted a systematic approach to organic farming, emphasizing resource efficiency, recycling, and reducing environmental impacts. They have implemented innovative composting methods, using agricultural by-products and organic waste from various sources, including households and industries, to create nutrient-rich organic fertilizers.
It is time for Indian agriculture industry to draw inspiration from such countries and embrace sustainable agricultural practices. India's vast agricultural landscape and diverse organic waste sources offer immense potential for large-scale organic fertilizer production. Collaborations between research institutions, private companies, and farmers will drive innovation, leading to more efficient and cost-effective organic fertilizer production methods. As India moves towards a greener and more sustainable agricultural future, organic fertilizer production is poised to play a pivotal role in enhancing soil health and ensuring food security.