Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Wednesday asked the chief secretary to examine Nabard proposal for funds to promote small agribusiness amongst poor rural youth and farmers with small land holdings. The chief minister also asked National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) Chairman Harsh Kumar Bhanwala to allow cooperative banks to diversify so as to enable them to widen their ambit of operations from the advancement of crop loans to term loans to farmers and the rural populace. Bhanwala, who was leading a delegation of officials, had called on the chief minister for a meeting here, a spokesperson said. Singh suggested exploring the possibility of providing such loans to young entrepreneurs, who intended to set up their ventures in urban areas, in order to resolve the problem of unemployment, the spokesman said.
Singh conceded a proposal of the Nabard chairman to strengthen the existing network of Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs). He said such a move would help bail out small and marginal farmers who were facing acute hardships on account of lack of proper marketing infrastructure for their produce. He asked the chief secretary to head a committee, comprising agriculture secretary and a Nabard representative, to develop a roadmap for FPO promotion and oversee its implementation.
Diversification of agriculture was the only way out through FPOs to assist the beleaguered farmers, as the traditional wheat-paddy cycle was no more economically sustainable due to squeezed profit margins on the MSP, the CM stressed. The CM, while agreeing to Nabard proposal to merge the Punjab State Agriculture Development Bank and Punjab State Cooperative Bank into a single entity to have better synergy and coordination in lending operations, asked the chief secretary to explore the possibility of amalgamation of the banks.
During the deliberations, the Nabard chairman told Singh there were a total of 91 FPOs operational across the state and 23 non-MSP crops could be promoted amongst the farmers as part of the state government's ambitious programme of crop diversification. Referring to the Nabard Micro Irrigation Fund, the chief minister asked the chief secretary to identify the most vulnerable sites in Kandi area and southern districts of the state where projects under this scheme could be undertaken on priority. The Nabard chairman said the financial institution was ready to start a pilot project of Rs 7-8 crore in the Kandi belt.
(With inputs from agencies.)