Tamil Nadu has unveiled an ambitious plan to set up special organic zones (SOZs) on the lines of special economic zones to promote organic farm ing in the state. But the proposal, which forms part of the proposed organic farming policy of the state government, is yet to materialise as the policy has not seen the light of the day though the draft was prepared almost three years ago. In the wake of Kerala raising concerns about the high level of chemical pesticide traces in vegetables grown in Tamil Nadu, organic farming policy has once again come into focus.
Like many other development projects in the state, release of the organic farming policy was also delayed owing to the conviction of chief minister J Jayalalithaa in September last year. "So far, no concrete step has been taken for its implementation," said a member of the committee that drafted the policy . "But we have indications that the policy may be rolled out soon," he said.
The policy, apart from other things, proposes forming a department of sustainable organic agriculture, directorate for organic agriculture and setting up a centre for excellence for organic farming at TNAU. The government plans to have regulatory mechanism to improve soil health, promote animal husbandry in organic farming, forestry and bio-diversity. The government will also set up seed farms and banks and give financial assistance to organic farmers.
Sources in Tamil Nadu Agricultural University said the policy would be presented in the assembly once the byelection to R K Nagar assembly segment was over.The policy envisages helping farmers every step of the way , said an official. "It aims at capacity building among farmers, providing them seeds, helping them in marketing and buying their produce for distribution through the PDS (public distribution system)," said the official.
For farmers struggling to sustain organic farming, the new policy may provide much needed succour. "Despite the best efforts put in to ensure safe farming, indiscriminate application of pesticides by neighbours spoils groundwater table," said V M Parthasarathy who grows pulses, vegetables and paddy on eight acres in Avadi. "Hope the government promotes native seeds with seed banks. They can be reused for generations, are rare," he added.
For others, marketing is the biggest challenge. "Let the government think of unified markets for organic produce in all district headquarters," said T R Govardhan, an engineerturned-farmer from Dasarapalayam in Trichy , who extensively cultivates vegetables and fruits on his 15-acre farm. He does delivery of produce to 50 families in Coimbatore at their doorstep. "It may be slow in getting great results," he said and added that success would follow.
"Gujarat drafted and introduced organic farming policy is less than six months. States like Kerala, Sikkim, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Odisha already have comprehensive policies," said a TNAU professor. "Now, with the pressure from Kerala, which has raised concerns about high traces of pesticides on vegetables that are grown in Tamil Nadu, we hope Tamil Nadu quickly implements the policy ," he said.