Sunday, October 5, 2014
Exploring the Possibility of Exporting Organic Agricultural Products
By Upul Weerawardana
Organic production has considerable potential in our agriculture sector in Sri Lanka. However, the term organic has been widely misused in Sri Lanka without having very clear understanding about it. Ecological farming systems, applying compost on crops, natural home garden practices, neglecting lands without applying natural and artificial inputs cannot be defined or termed as organic. Organic chemistry has no direct relationship with organic agriculture. Organic is a kind of labeling system that is granted for ecological production when the whole process is certified by an accredited third party organization.
Economy of our country is mainly based on agriculture. We have a higher degree of biodiversity among most of the developing countries and we are blessed with nature gifted most suitable climatic conditions for having sustainable natural agriculture systems. The agriculture practices that have been carried out for many years with indigenous knowledge of our traditional farmers have contributed tremendously for the development of sustainable agriculture in Sri Lanka. Many well balanced eco systems including the Kandyan forest garden system play major role in protecting environment and maintain biodiversity in many parts of our beautiful island. Once these ecological farming practices are tuned to follow an efficient management system, such lands can be inspected and certified as organic according to international standards with shorter period of in-conversion at a lower cost. Without a third party guarantee on the compliance of set international standards on organic production methods, a product cannot be labelled, termed or called as organic.
Sri Lanka is an Island it has great history of traditional farming production. Rice production is primary form of agriculture in Sri Lanka. In addition Sri Lanka has most fruit verities, vegitable and others.
Especially Sri Lanka has suitable climate for the tropical farming production. So that the country has popular name of the world famous. Such as in the ancient country was world famous as Spicy Island , perediga dannyagareya ect… After colonizing era Sri Lanka becoming world popular as Ceylon tea, Ceylon rubber, Ceylon coconuts so on. On the other hand geographically specializing in the country as called as Nawela Annasi,Kotte Pani dhodam,Malwane pani rabutan,kaluthera mangus ect.…
Against Sri Lanka able to develop new world famous name is call as organic Island.
I discuss all above are pass in Sri Lanka and its combination with agriculture system. Presently in Sri Lanka there is no popular name like this. No any farming production most popular in world wide. The problem is the farmers used more agro chemical and fertilizer. Therefore the agriculture production is not quality but quantity is very high. And also seed are not natural or not traditional.
In Sri Lanka 95% farmers used high genetic seeds. Modern fertilizer consists of varying amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). These three are believed to be essential for plants to grow, and are extracted from the soil with each harvest.
This is why farmers spread fertilizer on their fields, to replace the nutrients lost. It’s certainly not the ideal and sustainable way to farm, but it’s thought to be the most efficient for large-scale farms. Strategies like crop rotation and allowing large fields to rest would cut too deep into profits that are based on quantity, opposed to quality.
As I earlier mention, Sri Lanka is a situated in as an Island it can protect effect from several artificial agro chemical. The Government should have make rules and regulation for restriction to come agrarian artificial chemical application. So we haven’t any road access to the country from rest of the world .therefore the country can abandon come to inside of the agro chemical. Our traditional farmer they certified if do not used any artificial for the field, they can take good harvest. This chemical industry is more and more mafia in the world. Because of the chemical marketing is most profitable business.
Earlier in Sri Lanka the farmer they did not apply artificial fertilizer. They used totally natural Organic materials for their fields. Therefore the farming production is high quality, high nutrias, and high savory. The organic agriculture movement in Sri Lanka has lead to develop 25,300 hectares of land under organic production.
In Sri Lanka 33% of total employment are engaging in Agriculture sector, but it is contribute to the GDP 11.1% , why is that , the agriculture production is not focus to the world required. Not only world , but in Sri Lanka highly demand for the organic agriculture production. For example 1 kg of normal rice in market Rs 60-95 but totally organic rice price is Rs 190-300. Other organic vegetable, fruit price are also same high price. Therefore we should be changing our system of farming. On the other hand the chemical food most bade effect to the human body. Therefore annually the government spent more money for the non communicable diseases. Specially kidney diseases.
Sri Lanka as a country with full of natural resources has a big potential to fulfil the considerable portion of ever-growing market demand for organic products in the World. Our capacity in supplying various products already grown under ecological systems for years after the conversion within shorter period of time is very high. The value addition of tea from year 1998 to 2001 purely due to the organic labelling is equivalent to the additional production of about one million kgs of conventional teas. This is definitely an encouraging indication to any Government to support Organic Sector. This target has been achieved by few organic companies with their individual effort made for many years. The Export Development Board of Sri Lanka has immensely assisted to promote organic sector in Sri Lanka by assisting the private sector to seek new markets for organic products. Some of the other Government institutes have recently launched programmes to identify the potential areas and producer groups for organic agriculture.
Other than this direct financial benefit gained from organic exports, the protection of environment has become a major indirect contributory factor of organic agriculture. The favourable influence of organic agriculture on environment protection and human health on long-term basis has not yet been scientifically evaluated in order to add economic value to organic products. Water resources and tanks are contaminated with higher level of heavy metals and Nitrates that has already created serious health problem to our community and it will continue. Government spends huge amount on subsidy of chemical fertilizers from one side and bear huge cost on health care from the other side. Disposal of litter from large scale animal husbandry units has become a costly and troublesome affair and the same litter can be easily converted to nitrogen-rich soil input and that could replace imported synthetic nitrogen fertilizers resulting in saving some foreign exchange to our country. The same can also be used in organic production when the conversion is done according to organic standards. However extreme care must be taken to prevent the contamination of heavy metal and clinical waste when urban waste is converted as soil inputs for the use in conventional agriculture. The relationship between artificial chemical usage in agriculture on the increase number of kidney patients and other health related problems in many areas has become an interesting topic to be researched.
Contribution from academics, researchers, scientist and other professionals in the respective fields has become essential in order to educate producers and consumers about the negative impact of usage of hazardous chemicals in incorrect manner during farming and processing on human health. This will anyway help to reduce the damages done for farming community in the long run. The investment required in the future to clean our soil and water resources will be very significant. Environment polluted by us today for our short term benefit will have to be restored by our next generation at their cost for their survival in the future. Therefore it is logical that the cost for cleaning the environment needed in the future has to be added to the cost of conventional production.
Promotion of organic agriculture minimizes the health problems and also results in no capital investment to clean the environment. In addition, possibilities are there for our conventional products exported to developed countries to get rejected as the maximum residue limits (MRL) and heavy metal contamination in food are higher than those of ever-reducing allowable levels in the importing countries as a result of unmethodical and heavy chemical application.
Organic labeling needs international certification for Sri Lankan products. However, the cost of international inspection attributes extra overhead cost to the cost of production and therefore measures taken to reduce COP have become a necessity. Government direct involvement in setting up a mechanism to promote organic agriculture has become a compulsory issue in order to safeguard the interest of exporters who are involved in an internationally competitive organic trade as well as the producers in the organic sector. A long-term professional approach will help to generate more foreign exchange while our environment is being protected. This will also lead to maintain a sustainable development of the rural sector in Sri Lanka.
It is important that an institute to promote organic agriculture be established with the contribution of all stakeholders in the organic field. Government involvement is more important in making policy and finding a most suitable mechanism to implement them.
Some of the main activities listed there, are setting up local certification procedures under third country registry, policy making & implementation, registration of Inspection Bodies, registration of exporters and local parties involved in organic sales, issuance of renewable permit for local sales, penalizing fraudulent sellers, introducing a common seal for certified organic products in Sri Lanka, rendering assistance to organic & health shops, rendering assistance from media to promote organic export, setting up of Internal Control System for local inspection, register all training institutes and setting up organic export villages. However it is evident that some of the above activities have been already started separately by different institutions.
It is also imperative to draw up a plan for Sri Lanka to get the recognition and equivalent status for local certification or to enter into the Third Country Registry enabling local inspection bodies to certify products as organic which will be accepted by any international community.
For that, initially the guidelines or basic standards on organic production need to be set by a standard committee and then based on basic guidelines, the country regulation for organic production has to be established by a Government Standard setting institute. Qualified private organizations must set their own standards adhering to country regulation that are accepted by a quality management system for organic inspection and certification.
Training inspectors on organic standards has become compulsory when organic standards are set only. Generic training can be done by many institutes but standards-specific training needed for internationally accepted inspection system cannot be handled without the support of professionals.
Changing basic standards that leads to regulation changes in the country needs to be handled by group of experts officially nominated as the members of the standard committee by the organic promotion institute or regulatory institute. However, the adhering to the sequence of operation or procedures is very important in order to respect international standards and to gain the international recognition for our local inspection & certifications. It is clearly seen that many events happens today without much professional guidance and this will not lead to achieve our country goals in setting local bodies for the same.
Once all aspects fall in line it will result in eliminating higher cost of inspection and certification carried out by international inspection bodies. The present situation has curtailed the development of organic agriculture among small farmer groups in the rural areas in Sri Lanka. Recognized local certification system will also enable our producers and exporters to offer organic products at competitive prices in international markets. The main benefit from lower certification cost could be transferred to the farming community by giving them reasonable higher prices against conventional market prices along with the forward contracts.
In addition to these aspects, organic food production for local market will result in generating a healthier community in Sri Lanka. Immediate regulation should be imposed to monitor the products sold under the term of organic in order to protect the credibility of genuine organic producers and to safeguard the interest of organic consumers. Therefore, the Government of Sri Lanka should take the initiative like our neighboring countries for the promotion of organic agriculture in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka able to develop new world famous name is call as organic Island