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Sat, 14 Dec 2019

Northeast Today

Sikkim’s much-hyped organic farming mission faces uncertainty, new CM won’t impose it

Sikkim’s much-hyped organic farming mission faces uncertainty, new CM won’t impose it
June 26
11:26 2019

NET Bureau

The change of guard in Sikkim has pushed the state’s much-hyped organic agriculture mission under a cloud of uncertainty with new chief minister Prem Singh Golay saying he would not force it on farmers and that the programme had largely been only on paper.

The tiny Himalayan state with a population of 6.11 lakh (2011 census) which shares borders with China, Nepal and Bhutan, was declared fully organic in January 2016. The organic mission which kicked off in 2010, brought accolades to the state at home and abroad.

“The organic farming mission was restricted to only on paper and did not take place at the ground level. We would certainly support the mission but would not force it on the farmers,” Prem Singh Golay told HT in an interview.

Golay who led the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha to power ending a 25-year rule by Pawan Chamling’s Sikkim Democratic Front criticized the SDF government saying, “The earlier government had only created hype. We will provide technical, financial and marketing support to the organic farmers, but will leave it to the farmers whether they would go for organic farming,”

Golay took charge as chief minister on May 27.

Government officers, traders and farmers were of the opinion that though the objective of the organic mission was laudable, it was not feasible to implement it in a very short period of time.

“The hype created by the mission brought accolades to the state, but it can’t be termed a success,” said an agriculture scientist, who works for the government and did not wish to be named.

But the SDF defended its organic farming mission.

“The mission was launched for the benefit of everyone. It was praised not only in the country, but also throughout the world. Making the organic mission a success in a tiny state like Sikkim won’t be a problem at all,” said Somnath Poudyal, Sikkim’s former agriculture minister.

“The state already has 76,000 hectares of certified organic farming land. Sikkim produced about 80,000 tonnes of vegetables in 2017. This has to increase in the near future to cater to the need of the state’s more than 6 lakh people and 14 lakh tourists visiting the state every year,” Poudyal added.

SDF spokesperson M K Subba pointed out that Sikkim’s organic drive had received national and international acclaim and does not require Golay’s certification.

“Golay should check his facts and figures rather than opposing the mission. Former chief minister Pawan Chamling also received the One World award (in Germany in September 2017) for the success of the mission. The Prime Minister, too, appreciated it more than once,” remarked Subba.

However, opposition leader and Hamro Sikkim Party working president Bhaichung Bhutia criticised the organic mission and said, “70-80% of the organic mission budget was spent just to certify the agricultural land as organic.”

“The seeds which are coming to Sikkim are inorganic and they can’t be regenerated. There is urgent need to regenerate seeds in the state itself,” Bhutia, former captain of the Indian football team, added.

A retired agriculture officer also differed with the former agriculture minister. “Though promoting organic farming was good, making it compulsory immediately was not a good idea. Organic produces are expensive and only limited items have been certified as organic.”

“At the most Sikkim can produce 30% of its vegetable requirements. Most of the vegetable and fruits have to be brought from nearby Siliguri in West Bengal,” said Lakpa Sherpa, vice president of All Sikkim Traders Association.

“It would take 15 to 20 years to convert inorganic farmland to organic farm,” said Sherpa, arguing that in order to meet its objectives, the state has to produce vegetable and fruits to ensure there is no shortage in the markets.

A whole seller of fruits associated with Lall Bazaar Traders Association in the capital city of Gangtok said, “The state capital itself requires 35,000 kg of potato and 50,000 kg of banana every day and the local farmers simply cannot meet the demand. Making organic production compulsory in a short time span was an incorrect decision.”

From April 1, 2018, the Sikkim government banned the use of chemicals fertilisers and also the entry of non-organically cultivated vegetables and fruits with a few exceptions.

While inaugurating the Pakyong Airport in Sikkim on September 24, 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi applauded Sikkim and its people for being the only fully organic state in the country and highlighted the state as a lesson for others.

Source: Hindustan Times

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