Encouraging organic farming of fruits

Published: January 28, 2013

Given environmental and health benefits, Pakistan must adopt this trend. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD AZEEM/EXPRESS

FAISALABAD: Agriculture is the single largest sector and driving verve of Pakistan’s economy, despite the structural changes in the economy since the country’s independence. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2011-12, the share of agriculture in GDP is currently declining – but agriculture still remains the largest sector, accounting for 21% of GDP and employing 44% of the workforce.

Food is mostly still produced and handled in the traditional ways in Pakistan. However, with advancement in technology and changes in consumer preferences, the trend for production and consumption of safe and nutritious food is increasing.

Organic farming is a sustainable farming system that produces healthy crops and livestock without damaging the environment. It avoids the use of artificial chemical fertilisers and pesticides, relying on developing a healthy and fertile soil that can grow a mixture of crops.

There is nothing radically new about organic farming: it is merely our traditional method of farming with cow-dung as manure and neem leaves to keep insects away.  Some other techniques of organic farming control pests by using farmer-friendly insects. Trychograma – commonly known as stingless wasps – are used to destroy American bollworm maggots and other worms. Chrysoperla – or green lacewings – eats the larvae of aphids.

Fruits are valued as a rich source of vitamins and minerals. Among fruits, citrus, mango, apple, guava, banana, dates, and melons are the leading fruit crops in Pakistan, according to the government, if we consider the area under cultivation and production. In Pakistan, the production of organic fruits is in its initial stages. Consumers are willing to consume organic fruits, but they have limited knowledge and opportunities to purchase them. At this stage, it is necessary to explore the marketing potential of organic fruits so that appropriate policy measures may be taken for further expansion and adoption. The more aware the consumer will be of health benefits associated with organic produce, the more likely they will be to purchase organic products.

A marketing cooperative needs to be established solely for the marketing of organic fruits, to save farmers from exploitation by pre-harvest contractors. The government should give proper attention to providing organic pesticides to farmers at reasonable prices by establishing dedicated centres in various districts. Some traders believe that there is good potential for organic fruits, and that their demand will grow as more consumers become acquainted of their health and environmental benefits. Nevertheless, if more trade is carried out in processed products like jam, jellies, juices and nectars, fruit pastes and canned fruits in syrup, there is no reason why organic fruit farming can make a big name for Pakistan in markets abroad.

THE WRITERS ARE RESEARCH OFFICERS AT THE INSTITUTE OF BUSINESS MANAGEMENT SCIENCES, UNIVERSITY OF AGRICULTURE, FAISALABAD

Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (1)

  • John B
    Jan 28, 2013 - 4:55PM

    While the article advocates promotion of organic farming in PAK, its recommended reasons are based on ill founded assumptions:

    “there is no reason why organic fruit farming can make a big name for Pakistan in markets abroad.”- Organic farming is a consumer demanded LOCAL market and the requirements of organic labeling varies among countries and the organic labelled produce are yet to see the cross border trade. Consumers are finicky as to their origin of organic produce and even garlic and ginger produced in China by modern farming techniques do not command high prices as compared to local produce of the same method of cultivation.

    “The government should give proper attention to providing organic pesticides to farmers at reasonable prices “- A market cannot be established by subsidized capital. The consumer should meet the true cost of production, and if the consumer is not willing to pay then there is no market.

    Other than limited or no use of chemical pesticides and herbicides, there is no difference between the use of chemical or natural fertilizers and we know natural manure does not contain all elements of minerals in a balanced portions for maximum yield and the manure is not available in adequate quantity to meet the field demand to meet the market supply. Thus the production capacity is limited by manure availability and quality, as proscribed.

    In a purely market stand point, organic produce market benefits the producers through its high price due to the perceived benefits by the consumers and for consumers the health benefit is either nil or negligible.

    This brings the original point: why should the PAK government subsidize the producers cost for a limited local market. Let the producers and consumers of local market determine what they prefer.

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