Although cultivation of organic products has been gaining importance for long, marketing potential of these products is far from being adequately tapped. Developing countries which turned away from their long-established organic farming traditions to embrace the West-innovated inorganic techniques should now get back, as a gainful endeavour, to the organic methods. At a seminar held in the capital on diversifying agro products and value addition at global standards, the focus was primarily on value-added organic products --farming and marketing for both domestic and international markets. According to sector experts who attended the event, doing the job well offers the prospect of a sizeable share in the estimated $90 billion global green food market.
There is no denying that organic farming has experienced strong resurgence across the globe. This is largely due to the adverse effects that inorganic methods of cultivation, dependent solely on harmful chemicals in the forms of insecticides and manure, are alleged to be causing hazards to human health as well as environment. Higher yield of almost all crops, vegetables and fruits cultivated in inorganic methods has no doubt helped meet mounting demands for agro foods worldwide. But the threats are too many, and as consumers worldwide are getting more and more conscious, these are becoming increasingly pointed.
As a result, niche markets are increasingly on the rise in both developed and developing countries for products nourished by natural manure with little or no application of chemicals for higher yield or for keeping the plants free from insects and diseases. It is a widely accepted view that organic farming works in harmony with nature. This involves devices and techniques to achieve good crop yields without harming the natural environment or the people who live and work in it. It is also held that organic farming, while maintaining good soil structure and land fertility, follows environment-friendly pest control and disease-resistant techniques. Advocates of this nature-friendly method of cultivation staunchly hold that organic farming does not mean going 'back' to traditional methods. Many of the farming methods used in the past are still useful today. Organic farming, according to them, takes the best of these and combines them with modern scientific knowledge. In this way, farmers create a healthy balance between nature and farming, where crops and animals can grow and thrive.
The current interest in organic farming is obviously because of the intensive cultivation reliant increasingly on artificial fertilisers and herbicides, chemical and artificial pesticide that not only affect crop lands by decreasing nutrient availability and pollute water bodies but also cause threats in various forms to human and animal health and last but not least, environment.
Beside the beneficial aspects, what motivates farmers for organic farming is that organic products are relatively high priced and global demand is surging. In the West, supermarkets have allocated separate space for organically cultivated vegetables and fruits with higher price tags compared to those produced inorganically. As more and more people are getting health alerts as a result of their eating habits, the demand for organic products is on the rise. Saving cultivable lands from degradation due to excessive dependence on yield-enhancing chemicals is another reason for the resurgence of organic methods of cultivation.
Beside the known hazards, farmers in countries like ours can ill-afford the high-priced inorganic methods and as a result, low-priced adulterated pesticides and herbicides have swamped the retail markets causing more damage than is thought.
For countries like Bangladesh which had been pursuing traditional and organic methods in growing crops and vegetables for centuries until a few decades ago, it is not a matter of going back but of sticking to the best of the tradition and combining it with updated scientific knowledge. In the wake of the growing demand for organically produced agro products, there is also a strong prospect for Bangladesh to cash in on exports. Higher price tag of these products in Western markets can act as a stimulus. Studies conducted on Bangladesh's prospects for accessing the overseas markets of organic products suggest that subject to maintenance of sanitary and phytosanitary standards there exists immense potential for export of organic products in the vegetable and fruit segments. Agro experts opine that with the right thrust on cultivation and processing for export, Bangladesh is well poised to turn this sector into a major source of foreign currency earning in the near future. All this sector needs, include appropriate policy, support in the form of adaptation of products in keeping with the standards and preferences of specific markets, incentives to ease out capital constraints in the form of credit facilities, warehouse facilities etc.
In this context, it is pertinent to stress upon the formation of an accreditation board to facilitate farming of organic products in the country. This would provide the right direction to start with. Certification by the accreditation board of organic products would facilitate acceptance of the products at home and abroad and at the same time pave the way for a clearly defined policy for boosting organic farming.
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