Infrastructure Development for Agro-Processing Cooperatives in
Although India is blessed with diverse agro-climatic conditions and so has the ability to produce a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers and a host of other agro-based products, a substantial quantity of horticultural produce of our country is lost due to poor post harvest processing, handling, transportation and storage operations. In order to curb these losses, some of the agencies like National Horticulture Board (NHB) and National Cooperative Development Cooperation (NCDC) are making sincere efforts to create adequate infrastructure facilities for horticultural crops. Among various schemes introduced by NCDC and NHB, the Soft Loan Scheme (SLS) of NHB is noteworthy. Under SLS, an assistance is provided to cooperative societies, public and private limited companies, and farmers association with a maximum limit of Rs.1.00 crore at 4 per cent service charges per annum with one year moratorium period to set up projects related to infrastructure development. Maharashtra is noticed to be the only state which has received about 52 per cent of the total soft loan distributed by NHB to 26 beneficiaries in the country. Majority of the beneficiaries of SLS in Maharashtra are processing cooperatives. The present study attempts to evaluate not only the NHB’s soft loan scheme but also the impact of the scheme on development of post-harvest infrastructure (PHI) for horticulture crops in Maharashtra. The focus of this study is on two processing-cum-export oriented grape growers’ cooperative societies. The study shows a positive impact of SLS towards development PHI facilities since such facilities have not only increased the export trade of the selected societies but they have also helped in increasing the productivity levels of the crops grown in the area, besides helping in reducing the post harvest losses of the produce. Nonetheless, with a view to further improve the efficiency of SLS, the study has made a few major suggestions, which mainly revolve around simplification of loan procedure adopted by the NHB, timely disbursement of the loan, financing of the entire comprehensive project rather than for certain specific components, subsidization of electricity tariffs for the processing units, subsidization of sea freight, provision of funds for setting up of Research and Development unit for the marketing of produce, provision of foreign market intelligence, etc. However, how best these suggestions are taken care of by the NHB and various other organizations will depend on their future strategies and policies relating to financing of PHI related facilities for horticultural crops.
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