EVEN AFTER Maharashtra increased crop loan expenditure to Rs 64,000 crore, access to credit remains a difficult task for farmers in the state. With the onset of monsoon, the process of planting crops in Kharif will start in mid-June, but 76% of the sanctioned crop loan amount has yet to be disbursed.
The state government increased loan expenditure from Rs 61,000 crore to Rs 64,000 crore this week. Of this amount, Rs 45,000 crore is set aside for Kharif season (summer crops) and Rs 19,000 crore for rabi season (winter crops).
The data available from the Cooperation Department shows a lamentable picture. Out of the total amount of Rs 45,000 crore sanctioned for Kharif crops, only Rs 11,000 crore (about 24%) has been disbursed to the farmers while 76% of the loan amount is yet to be disbursed.
A senior officer from the cooperation department said, “The problem is not the funds. What is needed is a mechanism to speed up the loan disbursement process. Financial institutions will have to rise to the challenge to enable eligible farmers to quickly access agricultural loans.
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Cooperation Minister Balasaheb Patil has ordered all financial institutions – district central cooperative banks, rural banks, national banks and commercial banks – to speed up the process and ensure timely loans to farmers. Institutions were urged to maximize loan allocation by the end of June.
“Every eligible farmer should be entitled to timely crop loans. The funds are not lacking. Banks should process loans quickly to ensure as many farmers as possible are covered,” he said.
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The minister said each district had been assigned targets for agricultural loan amounts and farmers. The district administration should follow up with the banks to help the farmers.
A Principal Secretary of the Department of Agriculture said: ‘In the state there are 1.52 crore farmers. Leave out the 10-12 lakh which is not dependent on loans. Of the remaining 1.40 crore, we are trying to facilitate loans for farmers from 60 to 65 lakh. Around 75,000 to 80,000 farmers are still not covered by the institutional credit system. »
Of the 1.52 farmers, 79% are small marginal farmers. In addition to crop loans, the sharp rise in seed and fertilizer prices has also aggravated farmers’ problems. As a result, the overall cost of inputs has increased by 15-20%.
The state-owned Maharashtra Seeds Corporation, commonly known as Mahabeej, has recently increased the price of soybeans. A 30 kg bag of soybeans will now cost Rs 3,900-Rs 4,350. Last year it was priced at Rs 2,250. Similarly, the price of a 450 gram packet of cottonseed is changed from 730 rupees to 767 rupees. Private companies sell seeds at higher rates.
Assuring that the state government is initiating a series of measures to address farmers’ problems during Kharif planting, Agriculture Minister Dadasaheb Bhuse said, “We have asked all Krishi Kendras to ensure that there is no shortage of quality seeds and fertilizers. Our agents do everything possible to help farmers access agricultural loans. »
However, he admitted eligible farmers had been cut off from agricultural loans last year and said this would not be tolerated. “It is mandatory to grant new loans to farmers, who have paid all dues,” he said.
Last year, despite financial restructuring under the unique Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Loan Forgiveness Scheme, 10 lakh farmers were denied crop loans. Under this scheme, the government has provided loan waivers worth Rs 21,000 crore to 31 lakh farmers.
The agriculture department has issued an advisory calling on farmers not to plant unless there is 80mm of rainfall in their areas. He also warned against excessive use of fertilizers.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana President Raju Shetti said, “This Kharif season, we are likely to face huge shortages of seeds and fertilizers. The Ministry of Agriculture has not taken any concrete measures. The Centre’s dependence on Ukraine for fertilizers has adversely affected the country’s supply. To limit its losses and under pressure from the government to stabilize prices, the national companies have opted for a lower production of fertilizers”. There is a lot of uncertainty about what lies ahead for farmers, he said.
Former agriculture minister Anil Bonde said the government should give farmers subsidies for seeds, just as the Center gives subsidies for fertilisers. “A 30 kg bag of soybeans that used to cost Rs 2,250 now costs Rs 4,350. This is a phenomenal increase of Rs 2,100 per bag. The state government should give a subsidy of Rs 2,100 on soybean seed to farmers,” Bonde said.