West Bengal to build 7 floor market of organic produce

Joibo Haat (Organic Market in Bengali) is on the way headed by The West Bengal State Agricultural Marketing Board who has tied up with the New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA) to establish an organic market between the Harley Davidson showroom and Eco Park.

The foundation stone was laid by the Minister of the agricultural marketing department, Tapan Dasgupta, on January 17 in presence of ministers Sujit Bose and Purnendu Basu. The plot, that is on lease from NKDA, measures approx 14.77 cottahs, the constructed building will be a Ground plus 6 floors, and the project is estimated to be completed in two years. The anticipated cost is Rs 11.40 crore and funds are being raised from the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.

“People are falling sick these days due to chemicals in fertilisers. Going organic is a much safer option,”  said Dasgupta to agronfoodprocessing.com. “Also, we wanted to give a platform to those involved in organic farming.”

“The State Agricultural Marketing Board has already called for a tender to build the market. We expect construction to start within the next few weeks,” said the official.

It’s an Organic Supermarket

The building will have separate floors for all the multiplicity of organically grown fruits, vegetables, rice, pulses, surprisingly even honey. The whole scheme is to create an organic hub in New Town in one single construction.

“We want to give a super market-like experience to shoppers who come here. Everything stocked will be organically produced with zero use of chemical fertilisers or pesticides. All racks will be properly labeled,” the official added.

Organic growers and self help groups from all over the state will be welcomed to showcase and sell their products too.

“The farmers’ markets organized in Calcutta get good response from both buyers and sellers so we believe there is a ready market for organic products. Organic farming is being undertaken in large scale in North and South 24-Parganas and we’ve observed that people of New Town are ready to pay higher prices for quality products. So setting shop in New Town would guarantee more buyers,” the officer said.

The ground, first and second floors will accommodate the organic market. The third floor will have an organic food court. The fourth floor will hold training centre for skill development. The fifth floor will be for an advanced laboratory and office. The sixth floor will abode a guesthouse.

The major work of test laboratory will be to conduct research on organic farming. Along with that it will also ascertain whether the products brought in are organic or not. This will be the first laboratory of its kind to conduct such tests. This lab will also work to develop organic fertilisers and the facility will have regular workshops to encourage and educate farmers to shift to organic methods.

Sikkim has managed to become India’s first fully organic farming state by implementing organic practices on approx 75,000 hectares of agricultural land. It took Sikkim 12 years to reach this accomplishment and inspired by Sikkim, Bengal is now taking baby steps towards the same.

Debashis Sen, the chairman of NKDA, said such organic markets like in New Town, would open plenty of opportunities for the residents to purchase farm fresh produce and also motivate them to have roof-top gardens where vegetables can be grown easily.

“We are already in talks with agencies to develop rooftop farms on individual plots and buildings. Farming and gardening on the roof of a building will enhance the look of the terrace and provide quality food to residents. It will also keep the building cooler in summer,” said Sen.

NKDA manages a farm on the terrace of CB Market near Novotel and Sen said that hydroponics and other alternative methods for container gardening are being used there at length. This activity was started by Owl Spirit, a company formed by the NGO Uthnau, in 2017. They grew brinjals, beans, cucumbers, carrots, gourds, spinach, , etc in baskets on terrace.

“We have been approached by the NKDA to help residents grow organic food in their balconies and terrace,” says director of Owl Spirit, Kunal Deb. “Chemical use in commercial crops has spread to such an extent that even if you have money today you can’t buy healthy food. It’s best if you can grow your own food then.”

Yet another agency has been approached for terrace plantation, Hari Mitti. This V-based company makes crates of fruit, vegetable and herbs to sell to residents. “The nascent stages of plants are the most delicate. We shall look after the plant at this stage and hand them over when they are older and hardy. We also provide lifelong maintenance of the plants,” says Suhrid Chandra, the founder.

Hari Mitti has started managing 82 rooftops over the past two years which clearly indicates that  there is a demand for organic farming. “If a family takes in 30-35 crates, it won’t need to buy any vegetables from the market besides potatoes and onions.”

Both the agencies are trying to avoid the use of soil. Instead they use coco peat, vermin compost, hydroponics etc. “These options are lighter than soil and also, if we use soil, no matter where we source it from, it will be contaminated with chemicals,” says Chandra.

But the terrace farming has its own drawback. Of this the agencies are aware of practical problems. In 2014, Owl Spirit had started an urban farm on the terrace where they had to discontinue within nine months after residents refused to pay for its maintenance. “Residents can also complain about insects, those living on the top floor may complain of disturbance. Also some water seepage to the floors below can be a major problem,” says Deb. “So we have requested minister Firhad Hakim to allow us to carry out urban farming atop government buildings.”

More of the residents than not are keen to give organic farming a shot. To conclude, the organic produce will not only taste better but will also be healthier.

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