The scheme was launched in 2020 for the development of post-harvest infrastructure
Only 15 per cent of the Rs 1 lakh crore Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF), launched in 2020 for the development of post-harvest infrastructure, has been disbursed in the first three years.
AIF was announced at the height of the pandemic on July 8, 2020, as a part of the special COVID-19 package under Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative. Under this, Rs 1 lakh crore was to be provided as loans for creating post-harvest management infrastructure and community farming assets by financial year 2025-2026 and interest subvention and credit guarantee assistance till 2032-2033.
According to the information shared by Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar in Parliament on August 1, 2023, Rs 15,448 crore has been disbursed for 27,748 projects until now. And out of this, a total of 19,650 projects worth Rs 9,660 crore (9.66 per cent of the total allocation) have been completed.
In July 2021, the government extended the financing facility to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) by allowing APMCs to avail loans from the fund.
However, Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farmer unions which was at the forefront of the year-long protests against three farm laws passed in 2020, had expressed reservations against the government’s intention and effectiveness of the fund, at a time when farm laws were brought, which they alleged will dismantle the APMC structure.
Among the 27 states and Union Territories, for which data was shared by Tomar, Madhya Pradesh (MP) utilised the maximum funding of Rs 2,707 crore for 3,909 completed projects. MP was followed by Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh as distant second and third at Rs 901 crore with 2,424 completed projects and Rs 691 crore for 1,175 projects respectively.
The other states which were at the top were Punjab, Rajasthan, Telangana, Gujarat, Karnataka, Haryana and West Bengal. And some of the states which were lagging behind in fund utilisation were Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Kerala, Bihar, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Assam, Meghalaya and Manipur.
The government also said the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare had proposed a sample study of completed projects by a third party to assess the impact created under the AIF at the ground level.
Projects under the scheme included primary processing centres, warehouses, custom hiring centres, logistics facilities, sorting and grading units, cold stores and cold chain, bio-stimulant production units and silos, among others.
The government, in its reply, said in order to disburse the remaining amount by the financial year 2025-2026 and to continue the interest subvention and credit guarantee assistance till the year 2032-2033, various types of programmes in physical and virtual modes with different stakeholders were being conducted at regular intervals.
“The ministry has been putting efforts to popularise the scheme in a big way by organising more state conclaves in the coming days involving large number of stakeholders,” the reply read.
Bank campaigns will be conducted at regular intervals and workshops with FPOs, primary agricultural credit societies, state officials, bank officials and other stakeholders will be organised at frequent intervals to identify and implement infrastructure projects that align with the needs of local farmers and promote collective development, it added.
Further, every bank has been advised by the ministry to nominate an AIF nodal officer in the head office for coordination and communication in order to take care of all aspects of AIF scheme, from submission of application to reimbursement of scheme benefits.
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