SHILLONG, Feb 17 � With an eye on brand-building and market Meghalaya as an organic food producing State, the State government has withdrawn the chemical fertilizer subsidy to farmers, thus raising serious livelihood questions.
Although there is a growing demand for organically-farmed food globally for health and environment benefits, however, the decision of the government to withdraw the subsidy altogether has left the farming community in the lurch dependent on conventional methods of farming.
Recently, farmers from different parts of the State staged a rally in the State Capital pleading the government to continue with the subsidy. But, the government said it would not retract its decision.
P Khargonkor, Principal Secretary, Agriculture Department, while stressing the health benefits of organically-farmed food, said chemical fertilizers and pesticides are available in the open market for those willing to buy them.
�The farmers can buy the chemical fertilizers and pesticides from the open market, but the government would not provide the subsidy,� Khargongkor stressed.
However, the affected farmers are questioning why the government did not give a window period to make the transition from chemical to bio-fertilizers. Another important question raised is that if the government is no mood to give such a breather, why does it not give some sort of subsidy on bio-fertilizers to the farmers, which would have worked as an incentive.
Meghalaya is an agrarian economy, but the State is not self-sufficient in food-grains and vegetables and much of these produces are imported from the neighbouring State of Assam and elsewhere, which uses conventional method of farming and the respective governments providing subsidy on fertilisers.
It may be noted here that although those who have taken to organic farming are getting better cost on their produce, but then it is a niche market produce. Organic farms need more land as the yield is low compared to conventional method of farming. The verdict is not out yet on the viability of organic farms over conventional method of farming.
This means that Meghalaya, which is not self-sufficient in agriculture produce, would produce even lesser and with other States like Assam not taking up organic farming in the near future, the State residents would have to partake more of food produces by conventional farming methods.
What is ironic is that local farmers would now have to sell their produce at a higher price with locally sourced chemical fertilizers and pesticides from the open market.
On the other hand, prices of such imports would remain the same because of continued subsidy offered to farmers in different State of India.
The Mission Organic was launched by Chief Minister Mukul Sangma this year. �The new policy of the State government aims to build the �Organic Meghalaya� brand producing organic certified food and products...,� the Agriculture Department says. But the question is, at what cost?