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ISKCON Moves From Organic Farming To Food Processing

by Economic Times, The (India) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge

Posted April 8, 2006

Mar. 29 -- BANGALORE, India -- Having successfully pioneered the organic farming movement in Karnataka and neighbouring Kerala, the Eco-Agri Research Foundation of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) is looking at moving up the value chain.

It has initiated work on setting up a food-processing facility at Mahadevpura near Srirangapatna where its model 'organic farming' farm is located.

"The cost of setting up and operating the facility could be around Rs 5 crore to Rs 6 crore. Besides our own contribution, we are looking at the possibility of raising resources from financial institutions/banks," sources told ET.

The foundation was able to attract about 50-100 farmers every month to grow the organic way, sources added. Besides running the farm, the foundation has around 500 farmer members, who practice organic farming.

The total annual output produced by these members is believed to be around 100 tonne, with spices accounting for about 55 percent to 60 percent of the produce.

These 500 farmers are spread through out Karnataka and neighbouring Kerala and produce a wide range of agri-products like spices and foodgrains. Organic chilli is grown in places like Raichur and Chitradurga while farmers in northern Kerala grow spices like ginger and pineapple.

Once the agri-processing facility is operational, the foundation believes that it can secure a higher price for the produce. Typically, organic farm products cost five or six times more compared to the inorganic products.

The foundation was also looking at the possibility of using the internet for promoting organic farming in India. "There has to be a process of educating and providing information.

With access to quick and easy logistics, it would not be difficult to use the net for selling organic produce," sources added.

The foundation, which played a major role in promoting Indian vanilla in the global markets, continues to actively promote this crop although international prices have declined. It is reported to have handled over 300 tonne of green beans.