World market of certified organic products is approaching US$ 25 billion; organic agriculture may be developed for creating employment and reduction of poverty in Pakistan

Department of Agronomy
University of Agriculture,
Faisalabad, E-mail uaf_amanullah@yahoo.com

Nov 08 - 14, 2004





For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death. In less than two decades of their use, synthetic pesticides have been so thoroughly distributed throughout the animate and inanimate world that occur virtually everywhere.

More than four decades have passed. The production and use of these dangerous chemicals have multiplied several times since then. The poison has found its place in our vegetables, rice, wheat, fruits, tea, coffee, milk, fish, eggs, meat and all food products. Today even a newborn baby gets a dose of pesticides through mother's breast milk. While you are reading this, the dangerous chemicals are working within your body.

The pesticides in your body can cause cancer, mental disorders, headache, vomiting, changes in heat beat rate, muscle weakness, respiratory paralysis, convulsions, nervous system disorders, liver and kidney damage, respiratory problems, coma and death. The effects of exposure to pesticides can be passed on from generation to generation.

Isn't it high time that we say no to synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Don't we have a right to eat food free from poison? Do our future generations and we have a right to remain healthy?

There is a need to make consumer aware of their part in the process and thereby adopting, supporting and being responsible for the quality of food they eat by supporting and motivating the farmers to grow more healthier, nutritious, pesticide less and toxic free food.

Organic farming sounds simple no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or genetically engineered plants. But succeeding at it can be complicated. Present agriculture is not sustainable. Agriculture today is causing a number of problems such as: decreasing biodiversity; soil degradation; low income for farmers; pollution and inefficient use of natural resources such as water; social and cultural degradation; human health problems and environmental problems.

The present agriculture system that boasts of being so efficient is heavily subsidized in rich countries. Agricultural subsidies in the developed world are estimated at $ one billion per day. In 2000, the Canadian farmer and US got a fifth of their income (19 and 22 percent respectively) from their government. In European Union it was 38 percent and in Japan 64 percent. It is astonishing that the proponents of the current agriculture system insist that the solutions for the future lie " more of the same", that is more fertilizers, more pesticides, when the current system has failed to deliver.

The foundation of sustainable agriculture is a healthy, fertile soil, on which the rest of the farm ecosystem depends. Soil is not just another instrument of the crop production like pesticides, fertilizers, and tractors. It is a complex, living and fragile medium, which must be protected and nurtured to ensure its productivity, stability and sustainability. It is a nation's prime capital resource, the loss of which can lead to social, economic and political decline. Due to maximum use of chemicals in agriculture, the analysts have been warning of severe ecological damage. Most encourage organic farming, where the concept of feeding the plant does not exist and the attempt instead is to feed the soil, keep it healthy and living. The numerous soil organisms and micro-organisms that thrive in 'living' soil do much of the work.

Organic production is a complex system that integrates soil fertility, crop rotation, water management and pest and disease control. It requires a systems approach, but agricultural research has historically tended to focus on narrow, single-issue problems.




The total area of farmland that is certified as organic is reaching 20 million hectares and the world market of certified organic products is approaching US$ 25 billion. A number of national governments, notably in Europe have developed action plan and set targets (up to 20 percent share for organic farming) to be met for the development of organic agriculture.

Organic food sales almost tripled from 1997 through 2003 according to Organic Trade Association. Organic fruits and vegetables account for most of the sales, while organic meats and snakes foods - such as corn chips and rice cakes are two of the fastest growing segments.

"Organic agriculture is just a growth culture within all agricultural industries." The US department of agriculture says it has been increasing its financial support of organic farming research since 2000.

The California organic agriculture industry has grown quickly, producing sales of & 340 million in 2003. The state produces nearly half of the total organic vegetables certified in the United States; strawberries are most lucrative organic commodity in the state on a per acre basis, valued at $ 17.5 million.

In response to $25 billion global market for organic foods, the Indian Central Government set up a National Institute of Organic Farming in October 2003. The purpose of this institute is to formulate rules, regulation and certification of organic farm products in conformity with international standards. The major organic products sold in global markets include dried fruits and nuts, coca, spices, herbs, oil crops and derived products. Non-food items include cotton, cut flowers, livestock and potted plants. The institute, set up as part of the national program for organic production, will have its offices across the country and is appointing certifying agencies for organic farm products for the domestic market.

Organic farming has been identified as major thrust area of the 10th plan of the Indian central government, one billion rupees have been allowed to the aforementioned National Institute of Organic Farming alone for the 10th five-year plan. And by the end of 2004, 15 percent of farm products will be organically grown and processed. The planning commission has set up a working group and the department of commerce has established National Organic Standards. What's all this rush? Money, of course. Statistics are predicting that global market that was $ 17 billion in the year 2000 may touch the $ 31 billion mark by 2005 and India share is only 0.001 per cent.

There is growing international funding to produce "organic" foods for export, particularly to small European nations like Netherlands, where there is market demand but not capacity to grow organic foods, cereals, fruit etc., for themselves.


There is no serious data on organic agriculture. There is not much yet mostly assumptions and single cases. There is much need for studies.

Eco-farming is widely practiced in Pakistan. As about five millions hectares of the cultivated land in the country is rain fed and unirrigated, these areas are organic by default. Organic farming is either really expensive or really cheap depending on where you live and whether or you are certified.

In USA, converting to organic agriculture is huge undertaking for commercial farmers, who have relied on chemical fertilizers and pesticides for many decades, but in Pakistan, the conversion is less arduous, and more ironic.

Pakistan's farmers are still mostly practicing organic methods, passed down for millennia, organic fertilizers and natural pest control are the only tools available to most of these farmers, who have always lacked the financial resources to chemical solutions. But these farmers, whose produce is as organic as they come, are not certified.

As the international community adopts standard for organic agriculture, the challenges faced by farmers in the USA versus farmers in Pakistan in order to adopt are very different indeed. The danger is that the well-intentioned global move towards organic standards, will make small organic farmers in countries like Pakistan, who have been never done any thing but organic farming, no longer able to sell their crops,

In order to prove you are organic farmer requires certification, which is time consuming and expensive.

In India under current government policy, it takes four years for a farm to be certified as organic. The cost of preparing the report is a flat fee of Rs. 5000, and the certificate itself costs another Rs. 5000. While these costs are bearable for the new industrial organic green houses, they are equal to or more than an entire year's income for average small farmer, if the costs of travel and inspection are included.

In the United States, an organic farm plan or organic handling plan must be submitted to a United States Department of Agriculture accredited private or state certification program. The plan must explain all current growing and handling methods, and any materials that will be used in the present, and any further plan must be included as well. Records for the last five years must be presented. Land must be chemical free for three years prior to harvest, so a conventional farmer cannot receive organic label for transitional years. This will generally mean a decrease in income crops may be less plentiful than with conventional fertilizers and pesticides, and yet the higher price for organic products won't yet be possible. Many farmers cannot afford the transition, even if they want to.




Pakistan should also do the homework and should develop the organic farming institutions to get its share in the home emerging global market.

Consumers are responding positively and government and international organizations are increasingly recognizing the value of organic farming.

The certifying agencies should be accountable for confirming that any product sold with new "Pakistan Organic" logo is in accordance with international criteria, and will launch major awareness and marketing campaigns in Pakistan and abroad.

- One solution to the small farmer's dilemma of how to both certify and survive is that of community certification. This concept is increasingly popular among farming communities worldwide who have become fed up with accreditation agencies. In community certification, communities on a non-profit basis take charge of the certification process themselves. They evaluate the farmer's commitment to the stewardship of the soil; and examine from many angle. Whether the food is being grown in an environmentally sensitive way or not, rather than technical standards. While community certification may be a viable solution on the local level. In the global market place, less than technical standards will never be enough for today's consumers in largely poisoned environment.

Certification to international organic standards will not be easy for Pakistan's small farmers. Pakistan must find a way to keep the strict international organic standards intact, if wants to compete in the international market for organic foods but is there a way to do it without leaving small farmers out in the cold? One obvious solution is for the government so eager to make Pakistan organic to subsidize these certification fees enough to make it viable option for ordinary farmers.

Our international Air Lines, Hotels and Tourist industry should take pride in serving 'Pakistan Organic" foods to their guests.

The organic agriculture may be developed for creating employment and reduction of poverty in Pakistan.