Deere & Company, a world leader in the field of agricultural equipment, will work with the Gujarat government on an innovative public-private partnership to benefit marginalised tribal farmers over the next five years.

The company also plans to build a new tractor facility in India in addition to its Pune factory.

According to a company press release, the programme could benefit approximately 50,000 farm families, who will learn skills to help mechanise their farms, which could increase crop yields.

“The world is challenged to increase food production significantly in the next few decades,” Samuel R Allen, the Chairman and CEO of Deere & Company, was quoted as saying in a press release.

“All around the world, John Deere is working to help customers be more productive. Deere supports developmental projects such as this one in India to help farmers increase their chance for prosperity and improve their quality of life,” he said.

John Deere, the Moline-based company in Illinois, will open small agricultural implement resource centres across Gujarat, making more than 500 tractors available for use by local farmers and providing the farmers access to a set of 13 different implements for various operations.

Each centre will include a trained operator and maintenance staff. Farmer groups that use the equipment for crop cultivation will pay only for operating and maintenance costs and not for the actual tractor or implements.

According to Mr. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, the new public-private partnership is the first of its kind in the agriculture sector in India.

“This is a shining example of a programme that will help empower and provide economic wealth to our marginalised farmers and tribal brethren,” he said at the inaugural ceremony, organised jointly by the Gujarat Tribal Development Department and John Deere.

The ceremony was attended by beneficiary tribal farmers, representatives of NGOs, senior government officials and John Deere staff.

The Gujarat government not only aims to train farmers on the productive use of tractors and farm implements, but also to help develop additional skills in soil testing and micro-irrigation. John Deere will help ensure technical skill development and enhance future employment opportunities in Gujarat by training approximately 1,000 local individuals as tractor operators and another 500 as tractor mechanics.

“We have seen many policy initiatives in recent years in Gujarat to improve agriculture, including significant efforts to facilitate farm mechanisation in the state,” said Mr. Allen.

“The initiatives have addressed important topics such as market access, contract farming, agriculture extension services, water conservation, micro irrigation and the availability of quality electricity,” he said.

Four local NGOs - Sadguru Foundation, ANaRDe Foundation, Shroffs Foundation and JNPCT - have been asked to create self-help groups that cover at least 100 acres of farm land each to help ensure early adoption of the programme.

Deere & Company provides advanced products and services and is committed to the success of customers whose work is linked to the land - those who cultivate, harvest, transform, enrich and build upon the land to meet the world’s dramatically increasing need for food, fuel, shelter and infrastructure.

In January, Deere & Company announced it will also increase its capacity to build agricultural tractors in India.

Deere said the action will better position the company to pursue the considerable growth projected for the Indian tractor market.

Although the location for the new factory has not been determined, Deere will invest approximately $ 100 million to build a new factory and also to expand its current tractor facility in Pune. The new factory will build small agricultural tractors for sale in India and export to other countries.

“John Deere will continue to pursue opportunities to grow in our core businesses of agriculture and construction equipment around the world,” Mr. Allen said.

“We have been successful in growing our tractor market share in India and will invest to continue that success,” he added.

Other investments Deere has made in India, include breaking ground in September, 2010, to build a factory for grain harvesting equipment and inaugurating a John Deere water facility in early 2010. In addition, Deere opened a technology and engineering centre in Pune in 2005 and is involved in a joint venture with Ashok—Leyland - a technology leader in India’s commercial vehicle industry - to build construction machinery.

Deere has a long history with the Indian agricultural market, including sales of equipment in India approximately 60 years ago. More recently, John Deere created a joint venture in 1997 in India and fully acquired the joint venture in 2009.

John Deere India has been the largest exporter of agricultural machinery from India for the past 5 years.

John Deere tractors made in India are now sold in 70 countries, the press release said.

“India will be an important contributor as the world works to meet the growing demand globally for food production.

For Deere to maintain and expand its leadership role, we must be active in many economies around the world,” said Mr. Allen.

“Our focus is on customers whose work is linked to the land and we believe that we enhance our ability to serve these customers by manufacturing in or near where they use the products,” Mr. Allen added.