The Maharashtra government will elevate its policy reforms in the agriculture sector to the next level focusing on marketing and processing farm produce to generate higher and assured income to farmers. Buoyed by the NITI Aayog ranking of Maharashtra as number one in carrying out agriculture reforms, the state government has taken up the challenge to set up a mechanism to deliver assured higher returns to farmers across diverse crops. At present, the rain-dependent agriculture coupled with lack of market linkages often leaves farmers at the mercy of traders who manipulate farm prices.
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To achieve the objective, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, his mantra would be “sheti, shetkari ani samruddhi (farm, farmers and financial prosperity)”.
Outlining his government’s reforms in the agriculture sector, Fadnavis said, “It is my endeavour to see farmers get minimum support price for their produce. This can be ensured and sustained through a robust market. We will have to create value chains. A flawless linkage between farmers and consumers through a free flowing market, which can deliver higher returns to farmers, is being worked out.”
The emphasis on enhancing farmers financial returns is an outcome of the flagship programme of Jalyukta Shivar, which has helped create infrastructure to combat drought in the state. Among major agriculture reforms that helped Maharashtra rank first included Jalyukta Shivar. The other critical factors relates to agriculture land reforms, restructuring of crop loans, implementation of crop insurance and changes in crop pattern to cope with climatic challenges.
The state enhanced its credit plan from Rs 42,000 crore to Rs 54,000 crore. Yet, out of 1.3 crore farmers, almost 30 lakh could not avail the loans due to long outstanding dues.
Fadnavis said, “Reforms are aimed at making all farmers debt free. We want to make them credit worthy, which is possible if they have better repaying capacity and assured income.”
Water management expert Dr Madhav Chitale said, “I believe Jalyukta Shivar was a very good decision, which is now being replicated in other states. It showed the attempt was made to tackle water management at the micro level, keeping a village as an unit. It has helped.”
He added, “The task ahead should be to bring economic prosperity in rural areas and the village itself should have markets which would process and channelise the farm produce, he observed. There should be greater use of scientific technology to bring better results for farm produce.”
Fadnavis believes the infrastructure in agro-industries along with water and power reforms would make farmers self reliant. “The crop loan restructuring with zero interest in first year and extending the relaying from three to five years have helped marginal and small farmers with land holding of 2 to five acres,” he said.
The Prime Minister’s Fasal Bima Yojana, which was simplified along with a drastic cut in premium also helped farmers, believes Fadnavis. He said, “The total crop insurance disbursed in 2015-16 was Rs 4,200 crore, which is the highest ever in Maharashtra. Whereas, in the last 15 years, the total crop insurance to farmers was Rs 4,700 crore.”