Cornucopia’s Take: Certifiers and organic wholesalers are, so far, the major beneficiaries of India’s efforts to shift agricultural practices to organic in Sikkim. As in the U.S., certification is expensive (farmers in the U.S. are eligible for cost sharing from the USDA), although it is mandatory in Sikkim.

Sikkim, the picturesque northeastern Indian state in the eastern Himalayas, announced in January that it had transitioned completely to organic agriculture — the first state in the South Asian nation to do so.

Sikkim’s shift to organic agriculture was helped by the fact that it has far less cultivable land compared to other agricultural states in India.

The process of shifting to organic agriculture was initiated by the state government 13 years ago when it launched the Sikkim Organic Mission. Sikkim had a leg up in this regard, given that farmers in this difficult terrain were already pursuing traditional farming with minimal use of chemical fertilizers and the fact that the state has far less cultivable land — about 76,000 acres — compared to other agricultural states in India. Taking the required measures to get certified as organic farmers was a logical step for Sikkim’s farmers, state officials say.