A Credit Agreement of $100 million equivalent, for the Maharashtra Agricultural Competitiveness Project, was signed last week by representatives from the Government of India, the Government of Maharashtra and the World Bank.
The Project will help increase the productivity, profitability and market access of the farming community in Maharashtra. The aim is to strengthen farme rs’ capacity to respond to market demands by providing technical knowledge, market intelligence and market networks to support diversification and intensification of agriculture production.
“Rather than farmer searching for markets, the Maharashtra Agricultural Competitiveness Project will help in bringing markets to the farmers”, said Dr. S.K. Goel, Principal Secretary, Department of Cooperation and Marketing, Government of Maharashtra.
Maharashtra is the second largest State in the country, on the western coa st of India, with an area of over 30 million hectares and a population of over 100 million. About 58 percent of the state’s population lives in rural areas, most of whom are dependent on agriculture in some way for their livelihoods. While in per capita income terms it is one of the richest States in the country, it also has significant inequalities and one of the largest concentrations of poor people – about 32 million, the majority of whom live in rural areas. At present, the state’s agriculture is dominated by food grains.
“The program will enable farmers to take advantage of the rapidly changing consumer demand,” said Roberto Zagha, Country Director, World Bank, India. “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.”
Farmers will be assisted through farmer organizations, alternative market channels developed outside of regulated markets, and improved services provided by modernizing traditional wholesale markets.
The Project will be financed by a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) – the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm – which provides interest-free loans with 35 years to maturity and a 10-year grace period.