By Shivranjani Gupta,
If one positive could be drawn out of the devastating global COVID 19 crisis, it is the fact that this calamitous pandemic has made people more conscious about the need for healthier lifestyles, nutrition as well as their environmental footprint. The need to get rid of our unsustainable lifestyles has gained renewed currency in the post pandemic world. The natural corollary of this shifting consciousness has been a re-emerging interest in healthy eating as well as in naturopathic principles that focus on strengthening the human body from within. Demand for neutraceuticals and immunity boosting foods has skyrocketed across the world as people seek to bolster themselves against the viral scare. Medicinal herbs, spices, seeds and healthy oils are replacing traditional practices in households as Google search indicated manifold jump in online searches for naturopathic remedies such as giloy and vitamin C. An emerging focus on preventive healthcare is gradually but systematically bringing about a shift in what we eat and the way we eat!
On the one hand, the demand for functional foods encompassing neutraceuticals and supplements has increased. On the other hand, human consciousness is taking us back to all that is natural and organic. To be fair, a shift towards natural, chemical-free food has been clearly evident in the market since the past two decades, but the COVID pandemic has given it a sure-footed boost.
Organic food and the relationship between nutrition and health
A market research conducted last year by Meticulous Research, the global organic food market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.2% from 2020 to 2027 to reach USD 272.18 billion by 2027. As per official estimates of the Ministry of Commerce, India’s exports of organic food products grew by a whopping 51 per cent year-on-year in FY 2020-21 indicating robust demand from across the world.
At the heart of this transition is the growing realization that right nutrition is the most crucial element for health. Over the past few decades, studies have repeatedly cautioned us about the perils of excessive usage of chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers in agricultural practice. Not only has excessive use of agrochemicals impacted the nutritional status of the food we eat, pesticide prevalence has also entered the entire food chain, right down to the groundwater. The health hazards can be evidently seen in the form of increasing incidence of different forms of cancers. Interestingly, indiscriminate use of agrochemicals also degrades soil quality, impacts nutrient absorption and contributes to under-nutrition.
The practice of organic farming aims to roll back this impact by reverting to natural chemical-free agricultural practices. Organic food is not only agrochemical free, it also is not laden with growth hormones or preservatives. Importantly, organically produced food is most often locally produced and sourced, making it the best form of nutrition. Increasingly, as people desire to eliminate chemicals and health hazards from their plates, they are turning towards organic food and are willing to spend more money into healthy eating. Clearly, more people are looking at it as a form of an investment in preventive healthcare. After all, you are, what you eat!
Will demand continue to hold post the pandemic?
While COVID 19 has given a definitive boost to health eating and consumption of organic food, this is not to suggest that organic food was not a rapidly growing industry before the pandemic struck. In 2018, an ASSOCHAM-EY study suggested that the organic food market was already growing at a CAGR of 25 per cent in India. However, the demand that was earlier largely concentrated to metros and top tier cities is likely to now penetrate down deeper to Tier II cities as well. Besides, it is also expected to spread to a wider array of products, not just fruits and vegetables. For example, demand for organic and raw honey is increasing as people realize how important it is to consume immunity boosting foods in their most natural state to derive maximum benefits out of them.
The behavioural shift towards healthy eating brought about by the pandemic is likely to stay and is expected to increase the share the organic farming in India’s agricultural landscape. India currently accounts for less than 1 per cent of the global organic market and there is huge scope of growth in this domain. As per official estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture, just about 2.78 million hectare of farmland in India was under organic cultivation as of March 2020. In fact, a bulk of organic farming in India is concentrated to only 3 states with Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra accounting for almost half the area under organic cultivation. The growing demand for organic produce is also likely to increase penetration of organic farming in India in the coming years.
(The author is Chief Marketing Officer, Conscious Food. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)