Other States

Rajasthan farmers turn to entrepreneurship in a big way

Warehouses and food processing units established on agricultural fields in Jodhpur's Osian tehsil. .   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Farmers growing grains and vegetables in their fields in western Rajasthan are now sorting and grading their processed agricultural products with machines. Taking advantage of subsidies, incentives and land conversion offered by government agencies during the pandemic, cultivators in the State are fast turning into entrepreneurs.

With the agro-industry setting its firm foot in nondescript rural areas, mainly in Jodhpur district, chains of warehouses, cold storage facilities and food processing units have been established on agricultural land in a big way. Despite the adverse circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many as 617 agro-projects are in the pipeline with an estimated investment of ₹1,255 crore.

Farmers have evinced a keen interest in setting up units for oilseeds, pulses, spices, groundnut, cotton, milk and grain processing along with warehouses and cattle feed enterprises. While becoming financially self-sufficient, farmers are also providing employment to the village youths.

Support for entrepreneurship in the farmer community came through the State government’s agro-processing, agri-business and agri-export promotion policy adopted in 2019. The ambitious scheme gives subsidy on capital investment and interest to farmers and entrepreneurs for setting up agro-processing industries and developing infrastructure.

Mohan Ram Chaudhary, who established an agro-industry at Mathania village in Jodhpur’s Osian tehsil, told The Hindu on Saturday that the decreasing ground water level had created difficulties for his farming activities. “When I came to know of the new scheme, I submitted a project report for a groundnut decortication unit. The loan and subsidy were approved in the pandemic,” he said.

Woman farmer Munni Sankhla, known as a progressive cultivator in the region, has installed an onion-garlic dehydration plant in her agricultural field. Ms. Sankhla said her unit had started exporting onions and garlic, available locally in good quantity, after value addition. Farmers were also getting fair prices for their produce through such units.

Shiv Ram Parihar of Balarwa village, who has set up a spice processing enterprise, said farmers could store their commodities with the creation of warehouses and get loans to meet their immediate needs without the compulsion to sell the produce immediately after harvesting.

As part of the policy, farmers and their organisations are given a 50% grant, or a maximum of ₹1 crore, of the project cost, while other eligible entrepreneurs get the grant of 25%, or a maximum of ₹50 lakh. To reduce the cost of operation, farmers are given interest subvention at the rate of 6% for five years on getting term loans.

A transport businessman and a medical professional are among the entrepreneurs who have launched their agri-business ventures in Jodhpur district’s Tinwari village. Having received 25% subsidy in the non-farmer category, they have installed solar power panels in their units to reduce dependence on electricity.

Bhaskar A. Sawant, Principal Secretary, Agriculture, said the value addition to agricultural products would directly benefit the cultivators by facilitating the sale of processed items at fair and remunerative prices. “The State government’s initiative during the pandemic has encouraged farmers and youths to become entrepreneurs and generate jobs for others,” he said.

The State government has so far sanctioned a subsidy of ₹119 crore in the sector, after more than 85 farmers set up their enterprises, and the non-agricultural entrepreneurs established 250 units by investing ₹496 crore. A large number of other units have also started functioning after getting loans from banks.

With an immense potential for agro-products, Rajasthan is set to emerge as a leading State in the much sought-after domain on the strength of the policy. The role of middlemen is also expected to shrink with the measures for supporting post-harvest storage, transport, and direct linking of farmers with the market.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 8:36:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/rajasthan-farmers-turn-to-entrepreneurship-in-a-big-way/article35654435.ece

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