WASHINGTON, September 28, 2010: The World Bank approved a $100 million non-interest bearing credit to increase the productivity, profitability, and market access of the farming community in the Indian state of Maharashtra. The Maharashtra Agricultural Competitiveness Project aims to strengthen farmers’ capacity through technical knowledge, market intelligence, and market networks to support diversification and intensification of agriculture production in responding to market demand.
Perched on the western coast of India with an area of over 30 million hectares and a population over 100 million, Maharashtra is the second largest state in the country. About 58 percent of the state’s population lives in rural areas, most of whom are dependent on agriculture in some way for their livelihoods. While in per capita income terms it is one of the richest States in the country, it also has significant inequalities and one of the largest concentrations of poor people --about 32 million, the majority of whom live in rural areas. At present, the state’s agriculture is dominated by food grains.
“The program takes an integrated approach toward enabling farmers to take advantage of rapidly changing consumer demand and marketing channels,” said Severin Kodderitzsch, Project Task Manager and Agriculture Sector Coordinator, the World Bank. “It will promote diversification of farm production, dissemination of more productive agricultural technologies and empowering farmers to better understand, adapt and actively seek out and access existing and alternative markets.”
Farmers will be assisted through farmer organizations, alternative market channels developed outside of regulated markets, and improved services provided by modernizing promising traditional wholesale markets. The project will be financed by a credit from the International Development Association (IDA) – the World Bank’s concessionary lending arm – which provides interest-free loans with 35 years to maturity and a 10-year grace period.