Cooperation Minister Amit Shah on Saturday urged Agricultural and Rural Development Banks (ARDBs) to provide more long-term loans to the agricultural sector, including for irrigation and other infrastructure.
The government is building a database of cooperatives for the expansion of this sector, which is important for boosting agricultural growth and doubling farmers’ incomes, he added.
Farmers’ incomes cannot be increased without improving the agricultural sector, especially irrigation, he stressed, and called on cooperative banks to focus on providing loans to increase irrigated land in the country. .
The minister further said that India, which has 49.4 crore acres of arable land, the highest after the United States, has the potential to feed the whole world if the entire arable land is irrigated. .
Currently, about 50% of the country’s arable land depends on the monsoon.
Addressing a national conference here, Shah said agricultural and rural development banks have been operating in the country under different names for the past nine decades. Most of them operated as land mortgage banks and were the first to provide long-term finance to farmers as early as 1924.
With the conversion of these banks into ARDBs, farmers’ dependence on the monsoon has been reduced. Slowly, long-term financing evolved, he said.
“If we look back and see the journey of the last 90 years of long-term finance through co-ops and how it has spread, if you look at the data, it hasn’t increased,” Shah observed.
“Particularly in agriculture finance, whether long term or short term, it is crippled in many parts of the country. In many places it is doing well but in some states it is not. the case. We have to revive them,” he said.
Shah, however, said there are many barriers to providing long-term finance to the agricultural sector. The time has come to overcome these obstacles with a spirit of cooperation and realize the growth of agriculture, he said.
The minister further said that the ARDBs had funded over 3 lakh tractors so far but the target should be 8 crore tractors. Similarly, about 5.2 million farmers have received medium and long-term finance through cooperatives, but the target is expected to reach more farmers.
ARDBs should undertake reforms to help farmers seek long-term finance, Shah said, and cautioned cooperative banks not to focus just on ‘bank-specific reforms’ but on the whole sector .
He also said that long-term financing of the agricultural sector should be superior to short-term loans and asked NABARD to set up an extension wing to facilitate the same.
Not just finance, the minister said, ARDBs should focus on other cooperative activities such as setting up agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation, horticulture, poultry, fisheries, irrigation by elevator and other areas.
“We should not run banks alone, but work towards the goals for which cooperative banks were created,” he said, and called on ARDBs to adopt the Amul model to extend services to the community. agricultural.
To overcome the challenges of small farms, the minister asked the cooperative banks to think about how to operate these small farms in a cooperative spirit.
For the expansion of the cooperative sector, the Minister said that the government is building a database of cooperatives that will help frame policies and programs.
“We don’t have a database of cooperatives at the moment. We don’t know how many cooperatives are working in fisheries and we don’t know which areas are devoid of Primary Agriculture Cooperative Societies (PAC We have started working on the data and will benefit greatly from it,” he said.
Expansion cannot be undertaken if one does not know where it should be, he added.
The Minister also presented recent measures taken in the cooperative sector, including the digitization of PACs, purchases by cooperatives via the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) and a draft proposal sent to the States for the modification of the statutes of PACs.
The cooperative sector can be strengthened and for that it needs to reconnect with a cooperative spirit. Only then can it contribute to achieving a $5 trillion economy, he added.
Shah also bestowed outstanding performance awards on four State Cooperative Agricultural and Rural Development Banks (SCARDBs) located in Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat and West Bengal. Four oldest ARDBs were also commended for their tireless service to the rural sector for 90 years.
Moinul Hassan, chairman of West Bengal Agricultural Cooperative and Rural Development – one of the four oldest ARDBs – said human resources problem, lack of computerization and old mentality are some of the obstacles facing cooperative banks for long-term financing.
Furthermore, NABARD is not adequately fulfilling its role to facilitate long-term financing, he asserted.
Union Minister of State for Cooperation BL Verma, Secretary for Cooperation Gyanesh Kumar, Chairman of the National Cooperative Federation of Agriculture and Rural Development Dollarrai V Kotecha and National Union cooperatives from India and the president of IFFCO, Dileep Sanghani, were also present at the event.