EVEN AFTER Maharashtra raised the crop loan outlay to Rs 64,000 crore, access to credit still remains a tough task for the state’s farmers. With the monsoon’s arrival, the process of sowing Kharif crops will start in mid-June but 76 per cent of the sanctioned crop loan amount is yet to be disbursed.
The state government enhanced the loan outlay from Rs 61,000 crore to Rs 64,000 crore this week. Out of this, Rs 45,000 crore is set aside for the Kharif season (summer crops) and Rs 19,000 crore for the rabi season (winter crops).
Data available with the Department of Cooperation shows a dismal picture. Of the total Rs 45,000 crore sanctioned amount for Kharif crops, only Rs 11,000 crore (approximately 24 per cent) has been disbursed to farmers whereas 76 per cent of the loan amount is yet to be disbursed.
A senior officer in the cooperation department, said, “The problem is not funds. What is required is the mechanism to expedite the loan disbursement process. The financial institutions will have to rise to the challenge to allow eligible farmers quick access to crop loans.”
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Cooperation Minister Balasaheb Patil has directed all the financial institutions — district central cooperative banks, rural banks, national banks and commercial banks — to expedite the process and ensure timely loans to farmers. The institutions have been told to maximise the loan allocation by June-end.
“Every eligible farmer should be entitled to timely crop loans. There is no paucity of funds. The banks should speedily process loans to ensure maximum farmers are covered,” he said.
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The minister said that every district has been given targets for crop loan amounts and farmers. The district administration should follow up with banks to help farmers.
A senior secretary in the agriculture department said, “In the state, there are 1.52 crore farmers. Leave aside the 10-12 lakh who are not dependent on loans. Of the remaining 1.40 crore, we are trying to facilitate loans for 60-65 lakh farmers. Almost 75-80 lakh farmers are still not covered by the institutional credit system.”
Of the 1.52 cultivators, 79 per cent are small and marginal farmers. Apart from crop loans steep hike in the prices of seeds and fertilisers have also compounded problems of farmers. As a result, the overall input cost has gone up by 15-20 per cent.
The state-owned Maharashtra Seeds Corporation, popularly called Mahabeej, recently hiked the price of soybean seeds. A 30-kg bag of soybean seeds will now cost Rs 3,900-Rs 4,350. Last year, it was priced at Rs 2,250. Similarly, the price of a 450-gm packet of cotton seeds is hiked to Rs 767 from Rs 730. Private companies are selling seeds at higher rates.
Assuring that the state government is initiating a slew of measures to address farmers’ problems during the Kharif sowing, Agriculture Minister Dadasaheb Bhuse said, “We have directed all Krishi Kendras to ensure no shortage of quality seeds and fertilisers. Our officers are doing everything possible to help farmers access crop loans.”
However, he admitted that eligible farmers were deprived of crop loans last year and said this would not be tolerated. “It is mandatory to give fresh loans to farmers, who cleared all dues,” he said.
Last year, despite the financial restructuring under the one-time Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Loan Waiver Scheme, 10 lakh farmers were denied crop loans. Under the scheme, the government gave loan waivers worth Rs 21,000 crore to 31 lakh farmers.
The agriculture department has issued an advisory appealing to farmers not to sow crops unless there is 80mm rainfall in their areas. It has also cautioned against excess fertiliser use.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana president Raju Shetti said, “This Kharif season, we are likely to face huge shortages of seeds and fertilisers. The agriculture department has not made any concrete provisions. The Centre’s dependence on Ukraine for fertilisers has adversely affected supplies in the country. To curtail its losses and under pressure from the government to stabilise prices, domestic companies have gone for lower production of fertilisers”. There is a lot of uncertainty as to what awaits the farmers, he said.
Former agriculture minister Anil Bonde said the government should give farmers seed subsidies just as the Centre gives fertiliser subsidies. “A 30kg bag of soybean seeds which cost Rs 2,250 now costs Rs4,350. It is a phenomenal increase of Rs 2,100 per bag. The state government should give a subsidy of Rs 2,100 on soybean seeds to farmers,” Bonde said.