For the first time, the government is exploring public-private partnership for small and marginal farmers, making it a salient point of the 12th Five-Year Plan (2012-17). “Concessions and subsidies to these farmers have not helped. They can progress only if they are organised into large groups,’’ says Abhijit Sen, member, Planning Commission, and head of its agriculture division. “The private sector should organise farmers into groups and cooperatives, and take up projects that will help them. It will get full support from the government [for this].”

The Planning Commission has allowed states (agriculture is a state subject) to tie up with private sector companies to implement projects under the Public Private Partnership for Integrated Agricultural Development. Under this scheme, farmers’ groups and private sector players will collaborate in areas such as scientific farming, marketing, and building infrastructure.

If the company invests an average of Rs 1 lakh per farmer, the project will be entitled to receive central government funding to the tune of 50% of the total cost. The Centre has allocated Rs 9,217 crore for this purpose in FY13.

While the private companies’ participation will help fund better farming facilities, the returns they earn will depend on the terms of their contract with the government and the size of the project.

The Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium, an arm of the Agriculture Ministry, will examine the project proposals. The respective states will give the final approval and an agency appointed by them will monitor the progress of the projects.

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