The crop pattern in western and north Maharashtra gives an advantage to the farmers to avail of higher loan component compared to their counterparts in the backward districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada regions of Maharashtra, officials in the agriculture ministry said.
A source in the government said: “The agriculture loan for cultivating pomegranate per hectare sanctioned is Rs 90,000, grapes is Rs 80,000, sugar cane is Rs 80,000 and for banana it is Rs 80,000.”
These are the main crops grown in the 10 districts of western and north Maharashtra.
Whereas loan allocated per hectare for soya bean is Rs 40,000, tur (pulses) is Rs 30,000, cotton is Rs 40,000 and jowari is Rs 25,000. These crops are grown in the 19 drought-prone districts of Vidarbha (with 11 district) and Marathwada (8 districts) in the state. These two regions include 14 distressed districts that have recorded higher farmer suicides in the state in the past 15 years. “The crop pattern of the farmers in Vidarbha and Marathwada fetches lower loans,” a government official said.
While average loan allocation to farmers in western and north Maharashtra comes to a minimum of Rs 2.80 lakh, for their counterparts in Vidarbha and Marathwada it is Rs 25,000.
To enable the backward districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada to avail of a higher loan component at par with the economically prosperous districts of western and north Maharashtra, the state government is likely to urge the Centre to consider other parameters, including agriculture land price and labour cost, in the investment category.A source said: “The state government is going to take up the issue with the Union Agriculture Minister, Radhabmohan Singh. A proposal is being worked out to facilitate higher allocation of crop loans for the backward districts of state.”
Several experts in the agriculture sector have pointed out that crop loan allocations cannot be determined on investment cost and crop pattern alone. The cost of investments should also include labour and land prices.
A preliminary study of an agriculture experts’ committee has said: “The six-decade-old parameters to allocate crop loans will have to be revised and re-evaluated to provide higher incentives to small and marginal farmers in the backward districts of the cotton belt of Vidarbha and Marathwada. The investments in cotton per hectares may be lower compared to sugarcane or pomegranate. But the labour cost is much higher, which is not considered.”
Another argument is that when an individual seeks loan for buying a home, evaluation is on the price of the property and income. Similarly, agriculture land holding and its price can be considered while sanctioning crop loan. According to National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), in 2017-18, the total crop loan credit for Maharashtra will be Rs 58,862 crore. Of which, Vidarbha will get Rs 14,327 crore and Marathwada Rs 13,735 crore. It is lower than the total allocations for western Maharashtra at Rs 20,762 crore.
Of the total 1.36 crore farmers in the state, 65 per cent are in Vidarbha and Marathwada. In terms of small and marginal farmers, the percentage is much higher in these backward districts compared to the economically prosperous western and north Maharashra.
Another area of concern that is being reworked is related to the expansion and strengthening of the financial network in the region of Vidarbha and Marathwada to bring it at par with western Maharashtra. The state government and NABARD are working to address the problems of providing better banking infrastructure.
A NABARD report states: “The credit flow is always higher in economically developed regions. The higher loan allocations is linked to a higher banking network.”
In the region of Marathwada, the total number of banks is 1,889 and in Vidarbha it is 2,626. In western Maharashtra, the total number is 6,090.