The new mantra is Sikkim seems to be 'going organic'. The State promoted organic farming has picked up in a big way among 50,000 farming families of hill state which is set to become hub of organic cultivation in the country by the year 2015 when the entire state will be converted into a certified organic state.
Sikkim became the first state of India to start organic farming around decade ago when Chief Minister Pawan Chamling brought the resolution to convert the entire state into organic state in the state assembly in the year 2003, and constituted Sikkim State Organic Board .
More than 8000 hectare land was covered under organic certifications in the state during first 6 years period till 2009 due to strong road map worked out by various government agencies under which sale of chemical fertilizers and pesticides was completely banned and subsidy on chemical fertilizers and pesticides was completely withdrawn in the state in May 2003.
The state government completely stopped the lifting of Government of India quota of chemical fertilizers since 2006-2007 and all sales points for chemical fertilizers in public and private sector were completely closed down.
Alternatively, the state government introduced organic farming and promoted a large scale use of bio fertilizers and provided certified manufactured organic manure
to farmers as an alternative to chemical fertilizers. In order to provide alternatives to farmers, 24,536 rural compost units and 14,487 vermi compost units were constructed in farmer's field till 2009.
The bio village programme was adopted in the year 2003 and around 400 villages were adopted by the state government till 2009 which benefited 14,000 farmers and 14,000 acre of land in 4 districts of the state. The state government farms at Nazitam and Mellidara were converted to "Centre of Excellence for Organic Farming" for conducting organic research.
The state government launched comprehensive "Sikkim Organic Mission" in 2010 as a nodal agency at state level to implement and monitor the programme in time bound manner. A State Level Apex Committee (SLAC) with the Chief Minister Shri. Pawan Chamling as the Chairman and other Ministers of concerned Departments as its members was constituted under the Sikkim Organic Mission in 2010 to implement the programme in time bound manner.
Under the Mission, state government made a time bound programme to convert the remaining 50,000 Ha areas fully organic by the year 2015.
Organic farming have caught on in a big way in the State as around 8,000 Ha of farmers land is fully certified organic and besides this another 30,000 farmers are registered under the process development of the ICS system and Certification and are in the different stages of conversion. The remaining 11,000 Ha of farmers land will also be brought under certification system.
According to latest figures, the state has recorded around 80,000 MT farm production in the state out of which 45,890 MT ginger, 3,510 MT large cardamom, 2,790 MT turmeric, 4,100 MT, buckwheat, 3,210 MT urad, 20,110 MT mandarin oranges farm production has been recorded.
Out of this production figure, a significant portion is organic as the state already has over 8000 Ha area is certified organic. Once the entire state is converted into fully certified organic then the entire 80,000 MT of farm produce will be organic. Channelizing this farm produce to the market is another challenge for the state. At present
Ginger is being sold in Delhi Market and Large Cardamom is being exported to Middle East through Delhi and Mandarin oranges are in big demand in Kolkata and Bangladesh. A Ginger Processing unit has been set up at Birdang in West Sikkim for processing and value addition of organic ginger for marketing.
The state government has created separate marketing cell to coordinate marketing of organic products and an organic retail shop has been opened in New Delhi.
Besides this, 10 Apni Mandis/ Kisan Bazars has been set up at important tourist destinations in the state for marketing of organic products directly by the producers to tourists as well local customers on remunerative prices eliminating the role of middle men and commission agents.
The total requirement of organic manure in Sikkim is 10 lakh MT and most of it has been prepared by farmers on their own by adopting on-farm vermi-compost and rural compost units. Since the launch of organic policy in the year 2003, government is providing Rs 15,000 per unit subsidies on vermi compost unit and Rs 20,000 per unit on rural compost unit to the farmers every year for construction of their on-farm vermi-compost and rural compost units. However since the launch of Sikkim Organic Mission in 2010, another 10,000 units have been granted to progressive organic farmers.
The agriculture department has set up a bio-fertilizer unit at Rangpo, East Sikkim with an annual production capacity of 150 MT bio fertilizers to meet the manure demand of the farmers. The department has formed around 150 Farmers' Interest Groups having total membership of around 1750 farmers who are working actively for marketing of organic products. Besides this, several Organic Grower Groups have been set up at cluster levels for production and marketing of organic products.
The state government has empanelled reputed APEDA accredited certification agencies like OneCert Asia, IMO Control, LACON Agri Certification, SGS and EcoCert Agri Care for certification process in the state who are regularly inspecting the fields to ensure quality of the certification.
The state government has set up its own static and mobile soil testing labs to check the effectiveness of manures/bio-fertilizer. Internal Pest Control Lab and mobile units are also engaged in research work for pest and diseases and supporting farmers in scientific manner. A target of collection and analysis of 25,000 samples has been set to cover the entire ICS clusters of the state for the current financial year.
Sikkim has another advantage that its 15,000 Ha of Cardamom fields are by default organic as no chemical fertilizers/ pesticides are ever applied in these cardamom field s as cardamom has been grown as wild crop.
No doubt on the entire Sikkim State is declared fully certified, organic farmers are going to reap good benefits by sale of products at a premium price. Organic Agro-tourism will also be an added advantage for the State.