INDIA — THE NEW ORGANIC FOOD BASKET OF THE WORLD

Old-timers often say: “Fruits and veggies in our time tasted so different.”

The response from the listener is predictable: a wide chagrin. A politely suppressed fit of annoyance, maybe.

As the largest organic produce cultivator and exporter, India is leading the change.

The old-timers are not wrong. In the remote past, agricultural production and processing did not involve the use of chemical fertilizers. As a result, soil retained its natural, fertile vigor. The crops oozed with their characteristic taste, color, and nutrients. So the elders in the family probably are not off the mark when they sing paeans about the culinary pleasures they were fortunate to experience.

Organic farming is as close to ancient wisdom as it can get. This system of agriculture implements the strict use of natural manures. It shuns all kinds of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. It emphasizes effective soil management, so the land’s regenerative capacity is not dented. Environmental conservation, health, and social responsibility are at the root of organic farming.

It’s important to note that not every crop grown without chemicals is organic. National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) has laid down strict requirements. Only products that follow these guidelines in farming, processing, packaging, and labeling are authentic organic produce. Since the European Union and Switzerland recognize NPOP certification, India is able to export even unprocessed plant products to these countries without further compliances.

Organic farming has spiraled into a revolution. The world has been quick to appreciate the many benefits of organic fruits, vegetables, and grains. Being a major exporter, India occupies the pride of place as “The organic Food Basket of the World.” In the year 2020–21, India’s export of organic food products rose by US$ 1 billion. The total volume of organic products export was 8.88 lakh metric tonne, states a report from the commerce ministry. In the near future, India is going to attract new import partners like Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Australia, UAE, and New Zealand, to name a major few.

India’s rich biodiversity allows for the cultivation of different crops to satiate the diverse demands of the world. Indian products showing promise in the global market include oil cake meal, oilseeds, fruit pulps and purees, cereals and millets, spices and condiments, tea, dry fruits, sugar, pulses, coffee, and essential oil.

Organic food has another important dimension: the rising tide of gluten-free products, which are a rage among the health-conscious. Recently, India started exporting organically certified jackfruit powder and jackfruit cubes to Germany. Gluten-free grains provide enough incentive for farmers to switch to alternate crops. Millions of small farmers in rural India have shifted from conventional, water-intensive crops to medicinal and aromatic herbs, coconut, jackfruit, and spices.

The world is beginning to understand the deeper significance of using organic food. And India has already emerged as a key player in the global market. No doubt, the popularity of certified organic products is set to rise exponentially. After all, it has benefits rooted in economic value, conservation, competence, and health.