Itís the organic branding that counts

Nilesh Sharma is among the few farmers in Madhya Pradesh who last year sold their wheat as "organic" even though they did not have a certificate from an authorised agency. The 30-year-old of Palashdho village near Hoshangabad got more than Rs 2,200 per quintal, nearly twice the rate given by the government because his customers had faith in his assertion that the wheat had been grown without using chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

But not everyone in the state is as lucky as the young farmer, who supplemented his postgraduate degree in commerce with a degree in law.

Agriculture in MP is largely organic by default because most farmers are too poor to buy fertilisers and pesticides, and yet they were unable to market their produce as organic because they did not know that they needed a certificate.

Unlike Sharma who owns about 50-acre land, Roopsinh Rajput is a marginal farmer with a land holding of 10 acres, and lives in nearby Rohna village. But the proximity has not helped him to market his wheat as organic and get attractive returns. "Nobody believes us when we say we don't use chemicals or pesticides and insist on a certificate," rues the 40-year-old matriculate.

Though the MP government has formulated a detailed organic policy, and insists that it's against the use of genetically modified crops or chemicals, its certifying agency failed for a long time to get accreditation from Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Agency, which functions under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

MP State Organic Certificate Agency, which finally got accreditation in October 2011, has started to arouse the curiosity of farmers such as Sharma and Rajput, and many others who were clueless about where to get the certificate that, besides lending credibility, helps them earn more money.

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