Rendered by Rutaksha Rawat
Rajasthan based Natureland Organic Foods offers consumers transparency through its Farm Traceability Programme, whereby consumers can trace (through unique batch codes) each product back to the farm it was grown on and the farmer who fostered it. Founder ARVIND GODARA spoke with Pure & Eco India about the company’s emphasis on farm-to-fork traceability, its export expansion plans, and how demonetisation has impacted the Indian organic industry
When and how was Natureland Organic established?
Natureland Organic Foods Pvt Ltd was incorporated 18 years ago in 1999, with the vision to deliver high quality organic produce to customers in India and across the world. The vision behind the company’s inception was to offer the public non toxic and pure food, as well as, rid farmers of financial issues springing from poor returns, lack of market exposure and increasing cost of cultivation.
I hail from a farming background myself, and have a farm of 400 acres in Rajasthan. This is where we started initially, before adding organic farmers to our network. This land served as a sandbox, where we experimented with many organic practices for cultivation, which were later passed on to our farmer-phalanx.
“We understand and take to heart the quality concerns of our domestic and international partners. Moreover, we ourselves are driven by the desire to excel in quality and wish to offer only the best to our customers. To this end, we have recently installed a sortex plant, a world class cryogenic spices grinding plant and look forward to adding a steam sterilisation facility at our Agro Food Park soon”
With domestic demand growing at 30% annually, new players are jumping into the fray every other week. How can the general public ascertain the authenticity of organic products?
More new players coming in and investing in this industry is a good sign; it increases the size of the market, as well as, helps widen reach and spectrum of products. At the same time, some will try to ride the gravy train in the name of organic. So, consumers need to arm themselves with the facts.
My advice would be to first and foremost, look for the organic certification seal on the package. If it has any of the logos below then rest assured that it has been certified by an accredited agency and conforms to organic quality standards.
a] USA accreditation – The logo will read ‘USDA’
b] Europe accreditation – EU (this is illustrated by a leaf design made of star shapes)
c] India accreditation –NPOP (this is a blue logo reading ‘India Organic’)
The NPOP standards for production and accreditation system have been recognised by the European Commission and Switzerland as equivalent to their standards. Similarly, USDA has recognised NPOP conformity assessment procedures of accreditation as equivalent to those of USA.
Does Natureland have a traceability programme in place?
Absolutely, traceability is at the heart of our relationship with our customers. Natureland promotes a unique Farm Traceability Programme for all its products. Under this initiative, we give our customers the option to track progress of our organic farms and farmers, along with transparent access to our cultivation cycles.
Each organic product under the Natureland brand comes marked with a unique batch code, which allows you to find out which farm the product originated from. This captures all the information about the concerned farmer and his farm/farms.
Tell us about your export business.
Since we have well established ourselves as a leading provider of intelligent diet in the domestic market, we now wish to expand our export business and seek distributors for our retail brand on a global scale. We already export to USA and plans are afoot to export to Gulf countries, Singapore, Portugal, Chile, Russia, Morroco, Malaysia, UK, as well as, Europe. Currently, we export our wheatgrass powder and some of our organic processed foods to Germany.
We understand and take to heart the quality concerns of our international partners. Moreover, we ourselves are driven by the desire to excel in quality and wish to offer only the best to our customers. Therefore, we have recently installed a sortex plant, a world class cryogenic spices grinding plant and are looking forward to adding a steam sterilisation facility at our Agro Food Park, which spans 14 acres. We hope these measures will contribute towards establishing our brand in the export market as well.
Your expansion plans for the next 5 years?
We will invest more on business expansion over the next five years as we continue to increase the reach of our products in domestic and export markets. We look forward to modern trade tie ups in the coming financial year to increase brand value.
Our current range of products include organic wheat and processed wheat products, quinoa, chia, amaranthus, millets, rice, pulses, beans, spices, condiments, cold pressed oils, ghee, jams, squash, pickles, tea, honey, juices, roasted snacks, superfood bars, wheatgrass, etc. We intend to add more products and categories to our range, such as superfoods, ready-to-eat foods, heat-and-eat foods, organic cosmetics, organic textiles, and ayurvedic herbal products as well.
Natureland is already one of the largest processors of kinnow (California Orange) in India and will venture into organic kinnow jam, marmalade and juice production in the near future.
You have successfully converted 5,746 acres of land into organic in Uttarakhand. What is your organic acreage goal for 2020?
Yes, we did recently convert 5,746 acres of land into organic in Uttarakhand, which is a completely rain fed and eco sensitive zone.
Besides Uttarakhand, through our partner farmers, we also have organic farm land in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and the northeast. Our target is to convert at least 10 to 15 districts in each state of India into Organic Districts by 2020.
Tell us about Natureland Organic Agriculture Farms & Ecoline Society and its initiatives.
Natureland Organic Agriculture Farms & Ecoline Society is mainly involved in organic farming, seed development and distribution, fruit and vegetable processing, organic animal husbandry, and training of self help and farmer groups.
Through this body we have floated a host of initiatives including farm level training, farm input supply, seed supply, certification assistance and organisation of health camps. Furthermore, we conduct organic farming workshops for farmers and enter into long term agreements with them with a commitment to buying produce from them regularly at premium prices, besides guiding them through periodical audits and farm dairy checks.
Also, under the society, we produce certified organic seeds of grains, vegetables and cereals in association with government agencies such as the National Seeds Corporation and Indian Farm Forestry Development Cooperative. Seed procurement is a veritable nightmare for small and marginal farmers, who are hard pressed for cash to procure quality seeds. Draconian manufacturing companies take advantage of these farmers by pushing them to purchase BT and GMO seeds. Therefore, we have taken the onus to provide them with organic certified seeds at reasonable rates. The Society has also started work on the organic feed and fodder segment as a linear progression in the organic value chain.
Please comment on prevailing customer sentiment towards organics in the country.
Today, the conscious consumer is demanding, questioning, aware and more than willing to pay for organic foods and many marketing agencies have been tracking this phenomenal growth through surveys. Factors driving demand are: growing awareness about organics and environmental concerns amongst consumers; an increased buzz around health and wellness in conventional and especially, social media; and rise in disposable income of the middle class. In ensuing years we see greater demand for organics and a huge growth spurt for the industry.
Has demonetisation affected the organic industry in India?
Yes, demonetisation has impacted the industry on both the front and back ends. The agriculture industry in our country runs primarily on cash and similarly, on the front end, retail counters deal largely in cash. Therefore, demonetisation has staggered the pace of transactions a bit.
However, we perceive this step as a positive move towards a cashless economy, which will help untangle loopholes. Farmers and producers will ultimately benefit. We expect retail sales to pick up soon as cards and e-wallets rapidly replace cash across states.