Locally grown organic fruit on sale at a supermarket in Bangalore
Bangaloreans are plumping fororganic produce, and the retail sector has taken notice, with more than 10 retailers in Bangalore now offering organic food.
More farmers are now choosing to produce organic food products instead of the chemical-ridden conventional method of farming, which uses pesticides and herbicides to grow crops.
“With the increase in sales, we have seen a 200 percent increase in profit in the last one year since more customers are now opting for organic food,” said Amin Manjrekar, an organic food distributor to retail malls in Bangalore.
According to the website of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements: “‘Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects.”
From 2 stores to 20 in 2 years
Namdhari Fresh, a retail store whose produce is grown with eco-friendly bio-agents and under integrated pest-management practices, was launched two years ago with two stores in Bangalore and now has more than 20.
“The demand and supply is erratic,” Amin said. “More farmers are reluctant to change to organic farming since they do not know the output. It is hard for us to convince them despite it being a cost-effective method.”
The SoftCopy checked four retail outlets in Bangalore and found that the prices of organic vegetables were 20-30 percent higher than nonorganic produce.
“We find the products to be fresh and healthy, unlike chemically grown vegetables and pulses,” said Bobby George, a customer at a retail outlet in Whitefield. “So we do not mind paying a marginally higher price for organic foods.”
Amin owns eight acres of land in Srirangapattana, Ooty and Cunnor, on which he grows pumpkins, broccoli, potatoes and cauliflowers. He also advises other farmers about organic farming.
Price still key factor to many customers
Big retail stores take pains to brand and market organic produce as “organic.” This additional branding and packing pushes the cost up further. For some customers, price matters most, and they stick to traditionally grown crops.
“Vegetable and pulse prices are already high in the regular market, and I wouldn’t like to pay much more for such products”, said a Rajalakshmi, a customer at a retail outlet.
“We do get good profits on our produce, but organic crops require a lot of water, which is in short supply, so we produce less,” said Mahesh G.R, a farmer at Srirangapatna in Mandya district.
“If we had no water problem, we would have cultivated the whole 15 acres of land with organic crops, but now we use only half an acre for such produce,” Mahesh added.
Farmers are required to maintain strict standards to have their produce certified as organic. Growing such crops also requires additional labor, which pushes the cost up.
“My farm is certified by the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore, and I get Rs.5-10 more for the organic crops like pumpkin compared with the regular market price,” said Krishnappa, a farmer from Hesarghatta. “In the initial years, we incurred a loss, but as the years pass by, it’s turning out to be a profitable business.”