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Organic or non-organic groceries? It’s one and the same yaar. Or is it?

A woman entrepreneur at her organic farm checking the harvest


They say everything moves in cycles. Whether it is growth & recession in economies, bull & bear run in stock markets or the rise and wane of Liverpool & Barcelona Football Club! If you consider Indian culture and religion, then that concept is even more intrinsic. Organic farming seems to be in a similar cycle too. Once, farming using all-natural means was the norm. Then came chemical fertilizers & pesticides and farming using these was the usual way. Now, once again, using only natural methods & means for harvesting seems to be on the ascendant. This is, of course, not just an anecdote — the numbers are quite telling.


Take for instance, the state of Sikkim. In 2003, it decided to turn to organic farming to protect its precarious ecosystem. The government actively participated across all its departments to turn this experiment successful. They began reducing subsidies on chemical fertilizers and pesticides by 10% every year, completely banning them in 2014. Agricultural land certified as organic rose from 8000 hectares in 2010 to 100% of its 78000 hectares in 2016. In other states that have embraced organic and have received sufficient government support, the results are highly encouraging too. These include Karnataka, Mizoram, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Gujarat, all of whom have formulated some kind of policy or law regarding organic farming.


Before proceeding further though, let’s understand what organic farming actually means and how it is different from conventional farming. Simply put, organic farming is farming without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. But that definition alone is insufficient. After all, the use of chemicals started for a very real use-case — tackling pests that would wreak havoc on crops, endangering livelihoods of not just farmers but millions more that would have been fed by those crops. In addition, food security, especially for a large & growing population like India, is no laughing matter. After all, during the early 60s, India was on the brink of starvation due to successive droughts. We survived that thanks to Annadatta, and since then, have increased our yields substantially. Thus, maintaining yield levels while moving from conventional to organic farming is very necessary. As such, potent substitutes for these chemical fertilizers are required. Livestock waste such as cow dung is a good example. Earthworm vermicompost is another.



Now, one may ask, as did my friend Rajesh at the local supermarket, “if organic farming is chemical-free & uses natural fertilizers and pesticides, why haven’t farmers completely adopted it compared to conventional farming?” The answer lies in economics. Getting the produce certified as organic can be an expensive process, not to mention the red-tape often involved. Besides, it often commands a lower price since the perception is that it spoils quicker than produce that uses chemicals. Also, middlemen who purchase from small organic farmers often do not care to distinguish the produce & thus, it ends up competing in the local markets against the usual produce. There are other operational issues too — the yield levels take a few years during the ‘conversion period’ to reach their earlier years since one cannot immediately replace methods owing to soil conditions that have been depleted of fertility over the years by using chemicals.


From case studies done by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and FiBL (The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture), it seems clear that moving to organic farming requires strong support from many sources — departments such as animal husbandry and livestock, governments themselves in formulating policies & laws that encourage it while reducing subsidies on chemical-based farming, certification and branding, and consumer awareness.


Comparison between chemical farming & organic farming


From the consumer perspective, Indians have become far more discerning regarding the presence of pesticide residue in their food than barely five years ago. Besides the chemical residue, there are also medical leftovers such as growth hormones and antibiotics. As Dr. Saurabh Arora, Founder of Food Safety Helpline mentions, “These are especially harmful as it disrupts the working of natural growth hormones in children and renders normal doses of antibiotics ineffective in humans.” What this means is that, should a pandemic treatable by antibiotics suddenly spread across the country, the latent antibiotic resistance we are building up in our bodies, would render most medicines useless. And that seems to be as good a reason as any for preferring organic produce.


Live video shopping directly from a farm near Bangalore


If all this has whetted your appetite for organic produce, both in terms of knowledge and food, we can help with that. Recently, one of our customers hosted a Livestream directly from a farm in the outskirts of Bangalore, during which viewers were taken through a tour of a farm through live video, where they asked questions in real-time, learned nuances & techniques of how it works, added products to a shopping cart, made secure payments instantly and had it all delivered to their doorstep directly from the farm.


So we asked all the people who ended up shopping during this live show about the difference between earlier and now. Apart from the regular convenience of sitting at home and having-the-order-delivered-to-your-doorstep benefits, we were told in the majority of cases that they could make the purchase decision by knowing a lot more about the products than earlier ordering through a Whatsapp group. It helped them get more trust from the seller and that little word called “trust” is all that matters.


At Baaz, we’re helping several businesses like these provide a live video shopping experience to customers and in case you happen to have a business & wish to provide a seamless live video shopping experience to your customer — hit us up.

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