Consumers in India are becoming increasingly health conscious, which has resulted in a changed buying pattern and choice. Consumers are inclining towards organic food in place of conventional food, to avoid adverse health effects of chemical preservatives or residues present in conventional food. Moreover, increasing popularity of organic products has significantly augmented the availability of organic food in retail stores over the last few years.
The food we eat gives our bodies the necessary materials they need to function properly. If our bodies don’t get required nutrition – they can’t fulfill their role and as a result our metabolic processes will suffer and our health will decline. We can be overweight, underweight or malnourished and there will be more chances of developing various lifestyle diseases like arthritis, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Hence, there is no doubt – eating a healthy and safe diet is the solution. Following such diet doesn’t require strict limitations or staying thin or restraining your appetite. Just keep in mind that a “Safe Food” is nothing but a balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fibers, vitamins, and minerals in the diet to sustain a healthy body. There is no need to eliminate certain categories of food from diet, but it is necessary to select the healthiest and safest options loaded with nutrients.
According to WHO, unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhea to cancers and most vulnerable are the children under 5 years of age who carry 40% of the food-borne disease burden. Therefore, food safety is a real concern today. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of diseases and malnutrition – particularly affecting infants, young children, elderly and the sick. This present era poses another big hazard to our food – added toxicity by harmful chemicals like insecticides, herbicides and pesticides. As a result, apparently known healthy food like brightly colored vegetables, green salads can be unsafe.
The need of some alternative was felt from the beginning of the last century – almost hundred years ago. The pioneers of the early organic movement started looking into new, alternative ways to the issues like soil and water depletion, low and unhealthy food quality. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner gave his 8-series lecture on how to return to natural, organic farming and in 1940 English agriculturalist Lord Northbourne used the phrase “organic farming” for the first time, when the use of chemicals and pesticides in agriculture began to gain popularity. They soon realized if we wanted to solve these problems, the focus should be on improving the soil’s health. The recent movement and global protest named “March Against Monsanto” just sends shockwaves through our spines when it reveals that the merger of Bayer & Monsanto is expected to create a new company which will have control over a quarter of the world’s seeds and pesticides with unprecedented power over our food system.
Organic farming is one of the several approaches found to meet the objectives of safe agriculture for us and our planet. This can solve many present problems as it helps to maintain soil productivity and effectively controls pests by enhancing natural processes and cycles in harmony with the environment. Today it is clear that organic farming is the best option to protect soil-plant ecological relationship. According to IFOAM, “Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people”. Organic farming has several advantages over the traditional one apart from the sustenance of soil and human health. Some of them are – improved soil fertility, better water quality, prevention of soil erosion, generation of fair wages of rural masses, etc. To be more specific, organic farming not only gives emphasis on the end product, but also on the process and method of production. The important organic food and grocery products in the market are cereals, pulses, wheat, tea, coffee, herbs, spices, oil-seed crops, sweeteners.
The quality control in organic farming is strictly bound by various standards and guidelines. The USA and European Union have comprehensive National Organic Programme and India too has adopted the National Programme for Organic Production with national standards. Some common organic strategies and tactics suggested by them are:
Soil: Good health of soil is maintained by using organic materials instead of synthetic fertilizers. Biological fertilizers like compost, release nutrients slowly, build up organic soil matter, increase the capacity of soil to retain moisture.
Crop Rotation: Often the same crop is not grown on the same field year after year. Crop rotation naturally replenishes the soil because different plants contribute varying nutrients to the soil.
Buffer Zone: Edges of the land is designated as buffer zones. Such portions are managed in accord with organic practices, however the crops grown in that field aren’t sold as organic as some plants in that zone may have been exposed to GMO crops or chemicals.
Organic farming needs more labour input than the conventional farming system. India is a country with a very large amount of labour unemployment and under-employment. Therefore, it helps to generate fair wages for the masses.
The Indian organic food market reached a value of US$ 704 Million in 2018. This safe food gives assurance to the consumers that toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not used in the production. Moreover, USDA and India Organic Certified Organic Food ensures that strict organic cultivation standards have been followed with respect to air, water, soil and humans. The market for organic food is currently showing strong growth in India. A major factor behind this is the rising level of health awareness in the country. It is expected that the Indian organic food market will grow at a CAGR of 20% reaching a value of US$ 2,091 Million by 2024.
Consumers in India are becoming increasingly health conscious, which has resulted in a changed buying pattern and choice. Consumers are inclining towards organic food in place of conventional food, to avoid adverse health effects of chemical preservatives or residues present in conventional food. Moreover, increasing popularity of organic products has significantly augmented the availability of organic food in retail stores over the last few years. With organic food becoming easily accessible, the market is expected to witness remarkable growth over the forecast period. In addition, with the access of very low cost internet, more and more people are learning about the benefits of organic food, grocery and beverages. So with increased awareness amongst individuals, it is only a matter of time that organic products will overpower almost all the conventional food items in our kitchen very soon.