Spice farming in Goa organic by default: agri director

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Panaji: While cultivation of spices in the state is organic by default, local farmers are losing out on the organic market due to lack of certification, revealed Madhav Kelkar, director of agriculture on Tuesday.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the National Seminar on Spices: Emerging Trends in Production, Processing and Marketing, on Tuesday, Kelkar said that local farmers need to be educated on organic farming based on standards although in comparison to other states they use very less of fertilizers and plant protection chemicals and are therefore organic by default.

Black pepper, areca nut and green chilli are the three main spices cultivated in the state. Kelkar said that farmers in Goa are unaware about certification and lack technical knowhow in maintaining the organic protocol.

Urging experts attending the seminar to deliberate on difficulties faced by the state in making spice cultivation organic, the director pointed out that the conversion period of three years to achieve organic standards is considered too high by Goan farmers.

The two-day national seminar at Old Goa is being hosted by ICAR- Central Coastal Agricultural Research Institute (CCARI) and Directorate of Areca Nut and Spices Development (DASD), Kozhikode. 

“The seminar will focus on ways of increasing spice exports and production,” said EB Chakurkar, director, ICAR-CCARI, Goa.

It is attended by battery of speakers including Dr JC Katyal, former deputy director general (education), ICAR, Delhi; Dr K Nirmal Babu, director, ICAR-Indian Institute of Spices Research, Kerala; Dr SD Sawant, Vice Chancellor of Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth, Dapoli; Dr Homey Cherian, director, DASD and Dr Gopal Lal, director, ICAR- National Research Centre on Seed Spices, Ajmer.

Heads of prominent agriculture research institutes in the country, agri-scientists, spice farmers, graduates of agricultural colleges and spice industry stakeholders have arrived in the state to attend the seminar. 

Speakers revealed that spices are ‘low volume high value produce’ and have the potential to be a major foreign exchange earner to the country by way of exports. Foreign exchange earnings from spices are expected to touch US $ six million in 2019-20. The volume of cultivation is estimated at about 10 lakh tonne of which exports comprise about 10-15 per cent of the total cultivation.

“Domestic as well as global consumption of spices is increasing and there is an urgent need for production to be taken up in a much competitive way,” said Cherian, adding that chillies and turmeric are the top spices being exported.

India has maximum genetic varieties of spices with over 1,500 varieties of black pepper being grown in the country, it was

revealed.