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By Manohar Shete

The burgeoning Indian organic sector is attracting new entrepreneurs, as well as, established players from other business verticals. Therefore, a reliable resource for accurate information and consultation for new players has become the need of the hour

That the domestic Indian organic sector holds great potential is not a capricious surmise. Although, previously, the market was driven by export demand, a steady rise of 30 percent in retail sales has made the domestic market grow significantly. Organic offerings are finally gaining popularity in India and it’s an exciting time to be stepping into this sector as a stakeholder. However, the lack of adequate information and guidance could lead to wrong practices in the industry. Some misconceptions are being spread intentionally by those that stand to gain from anti-organic propaganda, which may stymie the progress of this sector if a reliable information source is not made available.

Common Misconceptions

There are many misconceptions existing about the organic industry. First and foremost, many consider organic farming and the use of organic products to be nothing more than a trend. But nothing could be farther from the truth. If recent statistics are to be believed, then the demand for organic foods and products is on the upswing, and organic goods are here to stay.

Another misconception is that the production from organic farming is much lower than that from conventional farming. Some opine that organic farming can only be done in a small scale and hence the outputs are smaller. The truth is, with a booming organic market, demands are only increasing. It is up to the farmers and the companies to work together to keep production steady. There are yet others who believe that organic farming needs a lot of theoretical knowledge about farming in general. However, that is not the case. New solutions and plans to help organic farmers are being developed every day, so the transition to organic farming can be made more seamless.
Finally, it must be noted that organic farming is not currently a niche market, meant only for NGOs or wealthy farmers. It is, in fact, a highly affordable and highly profitable field, with exciting possibilities.

Going Organic: The Next Step

Given the many unanswered questions that organic farmers have, a place where they can acquire the knowledge to be successful farmers is of utmost importance. The lack of knowledge and awareness about organic farming, about practices and regulation standards is strongly affecting the organic movement, and must be addressed immediately.

The workshop, ‘Business Opportunities in Organic’ is a step towards dispelling myths and imparting accurate information about the organic sector. A social/global movement as profound as the organic movement should be linked to the income of all stakeholders; it should lead to an improved quality of life for all—especially farmers, producers and consumers. Gaining a business perspective on organic production is vital and this workshop provides exactly that.

The full-day workshop comprises comprehensive presentations followed by group discussions and question-answer sessions. It covers everything from the basic definition of organic farming to the processes and principles.

Principles of the Workshop

The workshop on Business Opportunities in Organic follows this simple philosophy of organic farming:
“Organic Agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soil, ecosystem and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic Agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.”

It is based on the following principles:

    1. Principle of Health: Health of Soil, plant, Animal Human & Plant.
    2. Principle of Ecology: Emulating and sustaining natural systems.
    3. Principle of Fairness: Equity, respect and justice for all living things.
    4. Principle of Care: Leaving a legacy for the generation to come.

Details

From the principles of organic farming, to organic standards and certifications, certification bodies, and private standards—the workshop on Business Opportunities in Organic covers everything on the subject. Various organic standards in India, as well as, global standards such as National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP), National Organic Program (NOP), Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS), private standards and private labels are discussed. There are conversations around organic approved inputs, outputs, organic labeling, label claim and its regulatory value. Group certification and group labeling are also dealt with in the workshop. The workshop also touches upon the harmonisation of standards globally to facilitate international organic trade and make the international organic supply chain more seamless.

It is also important to understand Organic 1.0, Organic 2.0 and latest Organic 3.0 which is particularly based on trust, culture, local conditions and liberalisation of certification processes and regulations. All this only helps shorten the organic supply chain. The workshop also explores organic success stories from around the world, discussing and dispelling misconceptions, based on technical and authentic knowledge. It looks at the challenges faced by organic businesses and explores various organic business models such as the Hansalim Organic Cooperative. Participants are then asked to generate different business ideas based in the organic sector.

From organic commercial farming to consultation, from the organic supply chain and outlet mall to organic food courts and e-commerce sites—we will discuss the many business possibilities that organic farming presents. We will discuss the role of training centers, consultants, exporters and supply chain management. From seed production to Open Technology Group (OTG) training centres, the one-day workshop will act as a comprehensive storehouse of information for anyone interested in the organic sector.

The author is the Global Organic Leader of IFOAM International and a committee member of ASTM International, USA. He is involved in organic advocacy work in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, as well as, in other underdeveloped countries. He conducts organic workshops across the world and also heads his enterprise, M&M Industries, a certified organic farming inputs producer, which caters for 14 countries.
Those interested in attending the workshop may contact the author at shete.manohar@gmail.com


This article was published in the April 2016 issue of Pure & Eco India

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