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Organic Food Fever Catches Up In Delhi

Delivering organic food at the doorsteps is becoming a sunrise industry in the national capital as more and more people are opting for healthier lifestyles - where food plays a defining part. //

"Money is no more a factor when it comes to leading a healthier life. Awareness towards organic food is growing. It's certainly a positive sign," said Vandana Shiva, director of Navdanya, a leading organic food products company.

"People in Delhi are ready to pay more for quality and healthy food," Shiva, who is also a noted environmental activist, told IANS.

She added that even otherwise, the price difference between organic and normal food products is not all that much.

"Everyone is so busy nowadays, they do not have the time to go on searching for good and healthy food. We are just trying to make things simpler for them. It is more convenient for them."

Produce grown without the use of pesticides or artificial fertilizers is used to make organic products and experts maintain that such food reduces the chance of developing heart disease and cancer among its users.

The government-run Indian Organic Certification Agency (Indocert) certifies such food as organic, ensuring that the land is free of pesticides and chemicals. The organisation says the area under certified organic farms in India has increased from 17,230 acres in 2004 to 30,164 acres now.

"Initially when I started my shop three years ago, there were hardly any takers for organic food," said Shalinder, the owner of "Meer Organic and Agro Products" that sells its vegetables in the capital and neighbouring townships.

"So we started the home delivery concept and the response is certainly amazing," said Shalinder, who runs seven outlets in the capital alone. She said consumers were also becoming more aware about such food.

Said Anandi Balachandran, a teacher: "For seven months now, I have been using organic food regularl y. You have to pay slightly more but the benefit is worth it - no fear of eating harmful pesticides and the taste is amazing."

"Organic fruits and vegetables last longer - they do not wilt fast and remain fresh even after a week."

Apart from Navdanya and Meer Organic, the producers and sellers of organic food in the capital include Fab India, Swasa, Morarka Foundatin, Lifeline, Navbharat Enterprises, Fresh Health and Atik.

Neither the government nor any industry lobby has carried out any comprehensive survey about the current market size of organic food in India.

But the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), the apex export agency of the commerce ministry, says the country exports organic food worth a million dollars every year.

"We have not evaluated the turnover for organic food as yet. The study is under process. But the prospect is rising," said Sameer Barde, a director with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)

The business is also growing by word of mouth, as Shalinder explains. "People who turn other people towards organic food become regulars. We get around 400 new orders every month."

Pradeep Mathur, managing director of Pure Life Diet India Ltd, dispels popular perception that the economically well-off people are the ones who eat organic food.

"It is the simple middle class who are the regular buyers of organic products. Most of the people believe organic food is meant for the privileged classes. But that is definitely not the case."

Mathur, whose company has been delivering such food at doorsteps, said his team was also planning a marketing strategy to increase sales. "We are planning counter sales. Like Mother Dairy, we will set up kiosks at several markets."

"We are setting up promotional camps in parks and the target is niche - health conscious morning walkers," said an off icial of Meer Organic and Agro Products, spelling out another marketing strategy.

Adding another twist in favour of organic food, Shiva said it was because of the lack of money for pesticides that farmers in several states had been committing suicides.

"If farmers start growing only organic food then they will not have to borrow any money for pesticides."


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