For generations, a majority of Vidarbha’s debt-ridden farmers have only grown cotton, making themselves vulnerable to unreliable market conditions. Now, these and other districts facing an agrarian crisis, as well as the rest of the state’s agriculture community may have some reason to smile.
Rs 643 crore will be pumped into the state for the farmers, with the government going ahead with its ambitious Maharashtra Competitive Agriculture Project (MACP).
On Tuesday, the state government signed a loan agreement with the World Bank for Rs 450 crore to fund the project. It aims at enhancing productivity, profitability and market access of the farming community.
The signatories to the credit agreement were Venu Rajamony, joint secretary, on behalf of the Government of India, Dr Sudhir Kumar Goel, principal secretary (co-operation and marketing), Government of Maharashtra and Roberto Zagha, country director, World Bank, India.
“Rather than farmers searching for markets, the Maharashtra Agricultural Competitiveness Project will help bring the markets to the farmers,” said Dr Goel.
The project will strengthen the existing 906 market yards and will also promote alternate marketing platforms like rural haats and contract farming.
Around Rs 300 crore is likely to be invested for this. The project will aim at removing lacunae in agriculture marketing and invest in storage facilities and warehouses.
Farmers will also be able to access accurate information on prevalent food prices, buyer’s demands, alternative markets and pesticides through a network of common service centres.
This network will be available throughout the 33 districts of the state.
“The programme will enable farmers to take advantage of the rapidly changing consumer demand,” said Zagha. “It will also promote diversified farm production, disseminate agricultural technologies and empower farmers to better understand, adapt and actively seek out and access existing and alternative markets.”
Under the project 200 milk co-operatives as well as 100 fish marketing centres will be set up. Around Rs 80 crore is earmarked for fisheries and dairy development.
The biggest concerns for state agriculture, that has nearly 30 million hectares under cultivation, is poor marketing infrastructure and diversification of crops and allied agriculture activities. MACP hopes to bridge these concerns.