Somewhere in Maharashtra....

In a bid to stop farmers suicides and raise farmers income, the Maharashtra government has began two new initiatives: One, getting retail and agro companies to directly procure their products from farmers instead of middlemen or from other states and two, encouraging group an collaborative farming ‘gat sheti’.

The efforts are part of the state government’s Village Social Transformation program that aims at doubling income of farmers by putting thier organisations directly in touch with the companies and eliminating the middlemen.

We have not forced any of the companies to buy their raw materials from here, instead we showed them how procuring from the state was better in terms of logistics and price. “Due to lack of awareness many companies did not know that they could procure farm produce from Maharashtra,”said Ramnath Subramaniam, CEO of Maharashtra’s Village Social Transformation Foundation.

He added: “As companies directly interact with farmers, they can train farmers on maintaining quality and consistency. The intention was to eliminate the middlemen and get farmers a higher price. This could have been only possible if we got companies directly in touch with farmers.”

Government officials said the exercise started in July 2017 after the state decided to strengthen 200 farmer groups in a bid to encourage cooperative farming. Praveen Pardeshi, additional chief secretary to CM, asked all the district collectors to give a list of farm products with selling potential but not being marketed enough. Village Social transformation program was asked to reach out through corporates . “ It was an exercise to find out which products had a market and what could be done to leverage it and link it to retail companies,”said Subramaniam.

The move interestingly comes after Maharashtra was rocked by one of its worst protests last June when farmers went on a strike and dumped their produce on the roads demanding a farm loan waiver and also better price for their products. The strike led to a political trouble for the BJP-led government with even Shiv Sena supporting farmers.

State officials said they are in talks with 8 to 10 companies to source agri produce from the state.

State officials said that group farming is the next step towards further increasing the farmer and factory connect. This is where the next phase of the Maharashtra government’s initiative called the ‘Gat sheti’ (group farming) comes in.

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