The largest fertiliser co-operative in India has given a boost to farmers in the country by committing to buying their fruit of neem – which would otherwise be discarded as waste.
Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO) has agreed to buy the fruit of neem, which is native to India and the Indian sub-continent, at a rate of Rs15 per kilo (17p).
Farmers will be able to sell the neem fruits at any IFFCO office.
An IFFCO official said: “This scheme will not only enhance farmers’ income, but also help in increasing awareness about organic fertilisers.”
In January last year, the Indian government made it compulsory for fertiliser firms to produce urea that was coated in neem. The law states that a minimum of 75 percent of urea produced must be neem-coated – up from 35 percent previously.
Urea is used in the production of fertiliser as a source of nitrogen, while neem is seen as an eco-friendly alternative for pesticides. When spraying crops with conventional urea, around half of the nitrogen is not taken in by the plant, and instead leaks into the soil, causing contamination of groundwater.
Spraying crops with neem oil, on the other hand, slows the release of nitrogen by 10 to 15 percent allowing plants to take more on board. Research has also shown that using urea increases rice and wheat yields.
IFFCO was registered as a co-operative society in November 1967 and aims “to enable Indian farmers to prosper through timely supply of reliable, high quality agricultural inputs and services in an environmentally sustainable manner and to undertake other activities to improve their welfare”.
As well as increasing the incomes of farmers through crop productivity, it also promotes the use of energy efficient fertilisers, environmental health and the democratic empowerment of rural India.