Jammu, May 11: J&K that was growing completely organic foods till 1960s on Thursdaystarted its first organic food Nimbark. Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu threw open the store at Channi Himmat and termed it a milestone in state’s gradual return to the great organic days.
The store that has more than 100 organic food items from rice to various spices is the initiative of Sarveshwar Overseas, the major player in the Basmati business with roots in Jammu and interests in most of the Northern region. He is the only major exporter from J&K to West including US and Europe.
“It is just a small beginning,” Rohit Gupta, the MD of the Sarveshwar told the inaugural gathering. “My belief is that we can be India’s No 1 in organic produces.”
The company, he said is pan-India but has a good presence in the exports. All our products are approved by the US and EU systems. “I was so keen to see Dr Drabu inaugurating this initiative because he is the person who has promoted me throughout,” Gupta said.
Terming the initiative as “wonderful job”, Drabu said he has seen two special qualities in Gupta. “He has diversified within his area and is perhaps the only major who grows, processes, sells and exports,” Drabu said, adding the integrated diversification is a great example, especially in J&K. “Second he is keen to take his company to the stock market. Right now, he may not have been able to do it but I respect his aspiration to take his company to the Luxemburg exchange.”
Drabu said the state government would do everything possible in facilitating businesses and industry “without getting into the business.” He appreciated Gupta’s efforts in working enormously in R S Pora, for which the state government had announced a Basmati village to help processing, branding and marketing. He said the village must offer adequate facilitation; R&D and other basics that will help the sector grow.
Finance Minister said that J&K would have to make a serious effort to get the “naturally organic” crops declared as “formally organic”. “In my constituency there is a lace called Sangarwani,” Drabu said. “This belt has never used a fertilizer but still its products are not certified as organic because we have not followed the process.”
Drabu made a special mention of the branding of product and said the Serveshwar has done its homework well by knowing why they have named the brand Nimbark. SP Gupta, Chairman of the group detailed the entire tale that is behind the name, which means “the sun in the Neem tree.”
A senior Sarveshwar official said they are growing most of the products for their store within the state, as few are being grown in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. The company is also working with the farmers in Kashmir on Mushq-e-Budj, the fragrant rice that is being grown in in South and Central Kashmir.
“It takes 250 chemical test in a span of three years to get organic certification for a product,” the official said. “This is because the massive use of fertilizers have made the land hugely poisonous.”
The introduction of the fertilizers was started from Punjab, in Bathinda region, after the high yielding hybrid crops were introduced. Its overuse have led to massive cancer crisis in the belt as now a train that goes to Jaipur hospital is named as cancer train. “The new research has found that certain birds using huge fertilizer induced grains are unable to create shell for their eggs,” the official said. “This poison is gradually becoming part of our body and threatening the very existence.”
India is gradually emerging as a major organic crops producer even though the market within India is still small at around Rs 4000 crore. Kashmir’s walnut and almonds are the major “naturally organic” fruits but lack adequate certification.
The company that started with a rice mill soon after the partition is now running two major rice-processing plants in Jammu. It is managing the cropping in more than 10 thousand hectors of land in J&K, Himachal and Utter Pardesh. In J&K, R S Pora is J&K’s major Basmati producing belt.
The store located in a high end, health conscious locality offers rice, red rice, brown rice, flours, pulses, nuts and dry fruits, spices and condiments, jiggery and sugar, breakfast cereals, edible oils, saffron, flaxseed ad sesame seed. The inaugural function was attended by the Jammu elite from business, politics and media.