Organic farming believed to be a thing of the past is about to experience a resurgence across the globe. This is largely due to the adverse effects that inorganic methods of cultivation, dependent solely on harmful chemicals as insecticides and manure, are alleged to be leaving on 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 world-wide. But the threats are too many, and as consumers world-wide are getting more and more conscious, these are getting increasingly pointed out.
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 rather than against it. 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 strongly 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 affects crop lands by decreasing nutrient availability and pollutes water bodies but also causes threats in various forms to human and animal health and last but not least, environment.
Beside the beneficial aspects, what is inspiring to motivate farmers in 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 tag compared to those produced inorganically. As more and more people are getting health alerts as a result of their eating habits, demand for organic products is on the rise. Saving cultivable lands from degradation due to excessive dependence on yield-enhancing devices 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 devices and as a result, low-priced adulterated pesticides and herbicides have swamped the retail markets causing more damage than one can apprehend.
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 of 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, warehousing facilities etc.
At a workshop held recently in Dhaka, experts while emphasising the importance of organic farming in the country for meeting both domestic needs as well as overseas demands, recommended the formation of an accreditation board to facilitate farming of organic products. This, they hold, 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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