New Delhi: Although India is home to the largest number of organic farmers in the world, malpractices have resulted in inorganic products being sold as organic, said a study released on Wednesday.

A uniform standard which clearly lays out labelling requirements, punishment for fraudulent practices and a single nodal agency for regulating organic farming will help the organic sector grow at 20% annually, said the study ‘Organic Farming in India: Status, Issues and Way Forward’ by the Delhi-based Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).

Currently multiple agencies set standards for organic food. A nodal agency will help India establish itself as part of the global supply chain, said Arpita Mukherjee, an author of the report.

According to the report, India ranks 11th among 170 exporters of organic produce and ninth in terms of area under organic cultivation. While India follows regulatory standards set by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), when it comes to export of organic products, there is currently no regulation governing its domestic market and imports, the study said.

73% of 73 companies surveyed entered organic food business since 2006 and close to 95% of them work directly with farmers, a survey in the study showed.

Ninetyfive percent of 418 farmers surveyed in the research said they were satisfied with organic farming, while 77% said organic certification should be mandatory as it helps them earn a premium for their produce.

Integrating small and marginal growers to the market for organic produce and following global standards will open up opportunities for agri-businesses, said Amitabh Kant, CEO of the government think-tank NITI Aayog following the launch of the report.

“India has a rich heritage in organic farming and rain-fed tracts in parts of the country are organic by default," Kant said, adding, “Organic kiwis (fruits) from Arunachal Pradesh are even better than what is grown in New Zealand. The challenge is how to take the produce directly to consumers as organic and inorganic products gets mixed up in the wholesale markets."

Data from the report shows that about 1.5 million hectares of land in India were certified organic, excluding wild and forest areas. In 2016-17 India exported Rs2,478 crore worth of organic commodities like oilseeds, cereals and millets and processed foods.

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