Mon, Oct 08, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Bhutan aiming to become first 100% organic nation

AFP, NEW DELHI

The global organics market was estimated to be worth 44.5 billion euros (US$57 billion) in 2010, according to figures from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.

Bhutan sends rare mushrooms to Japan, vegetables to upmarket hotels in Thailand, its highly prized apples to India and elsewhere, as well as red rice to the US.

By shunning fertilizers and other chemicals, the country also stands to gain by reducing its import bill — a particular concern for a country short on foreign currency.

Peter Melchett, policy director at Britain’s organic Soil Association, says the main benefit of becoming 100 percent organic is an assurance of quality to consumers.

“Because there won’t be pesticides or other chemicals on sale in the kingdom, they would be able to offer a high level of guarantees that products are organic,” he said.

In countries like Spain, for example, there is a problem of contamination when organic farms are next to highly industrialized producers using large quantities of artificial chemicals, Melchett said.

“It’s difficult for organic farmers in those circumstances to keep their crops and supply-chain free of contamination,” he said.

Bhutan’s organic policy would “start to give the country a reputation of high quality organic food which in the long-run would give them a market advantage and the possibility of price premiums,” he added.

Jurmi Dorji, a member of the 103-strong Daga Shingdrey Pshogpa farmers’ association in southern Bhutan, says his fellow members are in favor of the policy.

“More than a decade ago, people realized that the chemicals were not good for farming,” he said. “I cannot say everyone has stopped using chemicals, but almost 90 percent have.”

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