India's preference for organic food amidst covid enables AP farmers to change direction
VISAKHAPATNAM: An unintended fallout of Covid-19 has been the push the pandemic has given to organic farming techniques in north Andhra Pradesh.Since the outbreak of the pandemic, a section of consumers has moved towards chemical-free rice and pulses to boost immunity, raising the demand for organically grown produce. Alongside, an increasing number of farmers are opting for natural techniques of farming to fetch higher profits and for their own consumption.
The area under paddy cultivation in Visakhapatnam district is around 80,000 hectares, 1.2 lakh hectares in Vizianagaram and over two lakh hectares in Srikakulam.
Speaking to TOI, assistant director of agriculture and district project manager of natural farming, Vizianagaram, K Prakash said that of the total area of 1.2 lakh hectares under paddy cultivation in Vizianagaram district, more than 2,000 farmers are growing the crop by using natural methods on an extent of over 12,000 hectares. The demand for organically grown rice and pulses has been increasing after the outbreak of the virus, he added.
In a similar fashion, around 10% of farmers in Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam are not using any synthetic fertilizer, crop booster, or undertaking huge investments. Instead, they have used cow urine and cow dung to promote soil health.The input cost of one acre under paddy crop is around Rs 20,000 using natural farming methods and gives a yield of around 25 bags (each bag is 75 kilos), farmers added. The agriculture department has extended 18 indigenous varieties of paddy. Most farmers are coming forward to grow Navara, Kalabatti and Ratnachodi varieties, which have high nutritional qualities, they added.
The agriculture department has also promoted the concept of ‘Navdhanya’ instead of green manuring to maintain diversity above and below the soil in order to retain soil moisture, increase microbial load, increase earthworm population and organic carbon.