"This statement from the minister if translated into action can go a long way in addressing the soil health crisis of the country. However it is to be noted that the traditional way of subsidising input manufacturers will not work in the case of support for ecological fertilization. Government needs to support grassroots institutions and devise farmer-centric incentive systems to translate this statement to action on ground," said Gopikrishna SR, Senior Campaigner, Sustainable Agriculture Campaign, Greenpeace India.
"This is a first step to self-reliance. Chemical fertilizer based farming has made the farmers dependent on markets and pushed them to debt traps. A shift in support systems to ecological ways of fertilization will be a big relief for small and marginal farmers in dryland tracts of Vidarbha who cannot use chemical fertilizers due to non-availability of water during most of the seasons," said Avinash Kakade, Mukhya Prerak, Kisan Adhikar Abhiyan.
"The Government needs to set up rural infrastructure and institutions on a mission mode to promote ecological fertilization, so that farmers can easily shift from chemical to ecological fertilization and rejuvenate soils. Ecological fertilization should be community driven and incentives systems should be created to facilitate this," said Saroj Mohanty, Paschim Odisha Krishak Sanghatan Samanvay samiti.
The insane support for chemical fertilizers through the subsidy system which led to indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers, was the main reason for the soil health crisis. The new Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) policy initiated by the Government as part of a fertilizer subsidy reforms in 2010, is also in doldrums. The new system of a fixed subsidy based on the nutrient content had a very constricted view of soil health. It has neither addressed the issue of declining organic matter nor has it succeeded in arresting indiscriminate usage of chemical fertilizers. NBS has made the crisis worse by decontrolling phosphatic and potassic fertilizers, leading to farmers replacing decontrolled fertilizers with cheaper nitrogen, further jeopardizing soil health. The amount of subsidy on chemical fertilisers has grown exponentially during the last three decades from a mere Rs. 60 crore during 1976-77 to an astronomical Rs. 62,301 crore during 2010-11, and the revised estimate for 2011-12 stands at Rs.67,198 crores, which is bound to further go up by the end of the fiscal year.
The Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI) also welcomed the announcement. "Providing monitory support to such efforts is an indication of acknowledgement of these safe and sane practices. On the larger canvas, it is well known that chemical fertilizer prices are directly linked to the prices of fossil fuels. These have only risen. This move of the government could be a strong motivation for more farmers to take up organic farming and free themselves from the worry of input prices over which they have little control of," said Nyla Coelho of OFAI.
Earlier this month, the Rural Development Ministry has also ascertained its commitment to soil health improvement by including ecological fertilization practices in the new list of works to be supported under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREG) Scheme.
Greenpeace as part of its "Living Soils" campaign has always been asking for a shift in support systems from chemical to ecological fertilization. Thousands of farmers, think tanks, civil society leaders and policy makers supported the campaign demands during the social audits organized by Greenpeace India in 2010. We hope the commitment in the Agriculture Minister's words will translate into holistic ecological fertilization programmes with sufficient allocations in the 12th plan.
Notes to the editor:
"Concerned over the adverse impact of fertilisers on soil and crops, government plans to reduce subsidy on it and divert funds to organic manures, bio- fertilisers, green manures and promotion of organic farming." – Sharad Pawar, Union Agriculture Minister as per the PTI story carried in various mainstream dailies. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/government-plans-to-reduce-subsidy-on-fertilisers-sharad-pawar/articleshow/13147803.cms
Gopikrishna SR, Senior Campaigner, Sustainable Agriculture, Greenpeace India, Mob: +91 9900897341, email:
Avinash Kakade, Mukhya Prerak, Kisan Adhikar Abhiyan, Wardha, Mob: +91 9730216700
Saroj Mohanty, Paschim Odisha Krishak Sanghatan Samanvay Samiti, Mob: +91 8895157066
Nyla Coelho,Central Secretariat, Organic Farming Association of India,Goa, Ph no 0832-2255913, email:
Pari Trivedi, Media Officer, Greenpeace India, Mob: +91- 7503893981, email: