Organic states

the resolve to rid agriculture of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, expressed by Sikkim an year ago, has been given a shot in the arm by Mizoram. The state made history by becoming the first in the country to legislate for turning its entire agricultural produce organic. It passed the Mizoram Organic Farming Act, 2004 on July 12, 2004. Sikkim is yet to pass a similar legislation.

Mizoram has only done what the Union government has always prescribed in its National Programme for Organic Production (npop), launched four years ago, but never really practiced. When Mizoram governor, A R Kohli, announced the state’s intention of going organic three months ago at a seminar in Delhi, critics questioned the ability of any state to completely do away with the usage of pesticides and fertilisers. But they perhaps missed the fact that the two states are among the lowest consumers of pesticides and fertilisers in the country. In fact, this is a trait common to all northeastern states (see table: Non-toxic northeast).

Only about 25 per cent of Mizoram’s cultivators, comprising 55 per cent of the total population, use chemicals in their crops. O P Singh, director, ministry of agriculture, Mizoram, says: “A very small quantum of fertilisers is being used, that too primarily for rice and vegetables grown in plains. People don’t use fertilisers and pesticides even for the rice grown on hills. Our passion fruit, turmeric, ginger, orange and pineapples are completely organic. So is chilly, sesame and hill potato.” Singh also points out that the move towards organic is not sudden in the state. In 2000, the Mizoram government had removed subsidies on fertilisers and pesticides. It also controlled their private sales by making licensing compulsory.

Non-toxic northeast
States of the region use little pesticide
States Amount of pesticides (in tonnes)
1985-1986 1986-1987 1987-1988 1994-1995 Share*
Arunachal Pradesh 17 18 25 42 0.05
Assam 810 1,410 531 630 0.78
Himachal Pradesh 690 553 545 290 0.36
Manipur 43 40 38 42 0.05
Meghalaya 40 42 44 19 0.02
Mizoram 6 7 10 13 0.02
Nagaland 9 4 13
Sikkim 16 18 20 32 0.04
Tripura 190 160 138 100 0.12
All India 62,219 67,272 66,896 80,659
*of India’s total consumption (in percentage)
Sources: 1. Anon 2003, Teri Energy Data Directory & Yearbook 2002-2003, The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi, p228; 2. Anon 2003, Basic Statistics of NER, Northeastern Council Secretariat, Shillong, p121

The challenge for Mizoram now would be to get its organic produce certified by accredited international agencies. This is the only way for the produce to command a premium price in the global market. The state has legislated certification and accreditation under the Accreditation Regulations 2001, as per the npop.

Some critics have panned Mizoram’s legislation, claiming it has too many loopholes. They say it is excessively dependent upon the government, which has to issue notifications and rules from time to time to give it teeth. Besides, it doesn’t talk about turning all the areas organic right away, nor does it fix any particular timeframe for the actions to be taken. It has been left to the state’s discretion to demarcate designated areas for organic production. But Singh defends the Act: “Though the minister for agriculture, H Rammawi, wanted us to declare the entire state (besides the three autonomous districts of Mara, Lai and Chakma) organic, the department suggested we demarcate areas after checking fertiliser usage patterns as the decision should not cause short-term harm to farmers using fertilisers in some areas.” He promises that the state government advisory body would soon do so and also set up a timeframe.

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