In a bid to turn around the dismal picture of agriculture in the state, the government is putting its weight behind ‘group farming’ that could potentially transform the face of the sector.
Taking a leaf from farmers’ co-operatives and informal groups functioning successfully in Maharashtra, largely in Pune district, the state’s agriculture department is planning to encourage voluntary formation of groups of farmers, who will come together to cultivate a particular crop or a group of crops.
The farmers can make agriculture more viable by sharing input costs, machinery rentals, cutting down on transport costs, getting better banking deals and marketing linkages.
“Once such voluntary groups are formed, the government can reach out better with the entire gamut of existing schemes and subsidies. It is easier to transfer technology and provide inputs to such groups. The state can also facilitate their tie-ups with banks, markets and retail giants,’’ said Sudhir Kumar Goel, principal secretary, agriculture.
Such groups can form federations and register themselves as producer companies and establish cold chain supply management and food processing units. The group farming initiative does not require separate funding as it will converge all existing schemes and customise them for a group.
To give a push to this movement, the state agriculture department is conducting a baseline survey of existing groups through agriculture technology management agency.
A government order issued on May 9 stated that in 2013-14, group farming will be given a push across 33 districts of Maharashtra. The state plans to channel subsidies and funds through such groups. Several such groups are already functioning in Maharashtra varying from groups of 20-30 to 30,000 farmers and more.
For instance, Goel a group of nearly 23,000 farmers in Junnar focused largely on cultivating tomatoes and supplying them to retail giants. Last year, the group had a turnover of Rs. 150 crore.