₹2,100-crore project to boost agriculture gets state govt nodUpdated: Jan 16, 2020 00:10 IST
The Maharashtra cabinet on Wednesday approved the implementation of the ₹2,100-crore State of Maharashtra Agribusiness and Rural Transformation (SMART) project for the backward districts of Marathwada and Vidarbha.
The project aims to build storage and marketing infrastructure for farm produce, promote e-trading platforms, and link agricultural marketing committees. Its motive is to increase the income of farmers and also ensure production of safe food for consumers.
Marathwada and Vidarbha region are suffering from farm distress and majority of the state’s farmer suicides are reported in these two regions.
The project will be implemented with the help of ₹1,470 crore from World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development), while the state has decided to fund ₹560 crore. The remaining ₹70 crore will be raised from corporate social responsibility funds of various companies.
Dada Bhuse, Maharashtra agriculture minister, said the project aims to promote sustainable agriculture by availing facilities to farmers, such as providing them warehouse facilities, fair price for their produce.
“The project aims to help farmers get better rates in the market, improve productivity, reduce the input cost by providing them various facilities. It will help us make farming sustainable and strengthen the condition of the farmers. Under the project, warehouse facilities will be provided to farmers when they are in need of storing their produce for better prices in the future. Processing facilities will be provided to ensure better pay back to the farmers,” he said.
The state government will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the World Bank soon. The state government also decided to name the scheme after Shiv Sena founder late Bal Thackeray, he added.
The project was originally envisaged by the Devendra Fadnavis government more than a year ago.
The state government has already signed an MoU with leading companies for the marketing and processing of agriculture produce. The companies that have pledged support include Reliance, Pepsico, Mahindra Agro, Amazon among others.
The minister said that the project also aims at strengthening agricultural product companies and self-help groups for the better marketing on behalf of the farmers. It will improve infrastructure facilities for the marketing of the produce. It has provision of gradation, quality check, computerised auction, warehousing, e-trading of farm produce. The SMART project also looks at better export and auctioning facilities by modernisation of the existing infrastructure facilities.
The project is proposed to be implemented in more than 10,000 villages in the next seven years. The villages will be shortlisted on the basis of various parameters, including backwardness and socio-economic background of the villages.
“With the active participation of the farmers’ product companies, the project will help establish linkages between farmers and markets, crop management after harvesting, value addition by preliminary processing and production of safe food for the consumers. This will help increase the earnings of farmers,” the official statement said.
Farm expert Kalidas Apet said, “Many such projects were launched in the past too, but have not helped farmers improve their earnings. Most of such schemes reel under corruption, proving to be a hurdle for benefits to reach the farmers. The Central government’s policies on export and import of agriculture produce are further affecting the minimum support price for the farmers. I doubt if SMART will have any impact in the lives of farmers.”
Farm expert Vijay Jawandhia said, “We welcome such steps taken to improve agricultural infrastructure, but at the same time, it should be implemented effectively. World Bank is funding the project, but previous schemes such as use of shade net and poly houses, promoted by the Bank, have miserably failed. The high-stakes SMART should not prove to be a grazing field for the government employees implementing it.”