Hyderabad, December 5: Stakeholders across the agriculture spectrum including policy makers and farmers groups in Maharashtra will converge on December 5 to dwell, deliberate and announce the soft launch of World Bank aided rural transformation project ‘SMART’ (State of Maharashtra’s Agribusiness and Rural Transformation in the presence of Honourable Chief Minister of the State, Shri Devendra Fadnavis.

This important initiative will also see signing of more than 30 to 40 memorandum of understanding (MOUs) involving top corporate houses including the Tatas, Amazon to name a few. Confederation of Industry (CII) is the industry partner for this important initiative.

Nicknamed SMART that stands for ‘State of Maharashtra’s Agribusiness and Rural Transformation” this World Bank assisted project is set to revamp the agricultural value chain in the state with focus on marginal farmers with small land holdings across 1,000 villages and further get scaled up to 10,000 villages across the state.

The objective is to support value addition in post-harvest segments of farm-value chains while facilitating corporate support and investment in the sector. Stimulating small and medium enterprises within the value chain, the project seeks to establish partnerships between the various stakeholders in the agri-business segments including farmer organizations, start-ups, SME’s and large corporates along with village transformation units, women’s self-help groups, Primary Agricultural Cooperative Credit Societies to improve realization for the farmers without adding to the price value and thereby inflation to the end consumer by reducing wastage and harmonizing quality.

This would entail an investment of US$300 million of which World Bank would contribute US$210 million while state government would contribute US$80 million and the rest US$10 million from VSTF (Village Social Transformation Foundation). This is a step further from VSTF’s intervention across the state through corporate social responsibility.

Commenting on the initiative, Honorable Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Shri Devendra Fadnavis said, “To realise Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mission to double farmer’s income by 2022, this initiative of Maharashtra government is a step towards achieving the coveted objective. The initiative will also support post-harvest value chain and bring in efficiency that will benefit the economy at large,”

Constraints for the farmers include their marginal holding limit, inability to invest in new yield enhancing technologies and lack of bargaining power to sell their harvest due to lack of scale that also impacts during purchase of seeds or fertilizers. Hence, small farmers end up buying inputs at higher price and usually receive lower price for their harvest, effectively making lower profits than large farmers. Their inability also reflects in challenges in transporting their produce over long distances despite knowing that prices are more remunerative in metros and other large but distant markets.

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