Madhya Pradesh launches scheme to help rural youth set up food processing units

Anyone who is older than 18 years and has cleared secondary board exams can apply for the scheme. Photo: Bloomberg

New Delhi: Encouraged by the success of its farm machinery leasing scheme to support entrepreneurship among rural youth, the Madhya Pradesh government has announced another one—this time to help them set up food processing units.

Anyone who is older than 18 years and has cleared secondary board exams can apply for the scheme, under which primary processing units can be set up at a cost of up to Rs25 lakh per unit. Under the scheme, rural entrepreneurs will receive 40% of the investment as a subsidy, while the rest will be financed by bank loans.

The new scheme, approved by the state government’s special farm cabinet on Monday, will utilize financial assistance from a central scheme which allows setting up of custom hiring centres for renting farm machinery.

Under the new scheme, rural youth can set up small scale mills to process rice, pulses, millets and dehydration units for onions and garlic. The scheme also allows manufacturing of onion and garlic paste, soya milk and tomato puree, among others.

The government’s target is to set up 500 such processing plants within the next three years.

“The idea is to emulate the success of custom hiring centres where rural unemployed youth have set up centres across the state renting out machinery to small farmers and are earning decent profits,” said Rajesh Rajora, agriculture secretary of Madhya Pradesh.

The state government’s latest scheme follows another one launched last week wherein farmers will be compensated for distress sales of crops at prices below federal government-announced minimum support prices (MSP). The scheme is planned as a cover against price risks for growers of oilseeds and pulses.

Since June, farmers in several parts of Madhya Pradesh have been protesting against a sharp fall in crop prices from onion and spices to pulses and oilseeds. On 6 June, at least five protesting farmers died in police firing in Mandsaur district.

Anger among farmers, however, is in sharp contrast to the state government’s numbers. On Monday, the Madhya Pradesh government said in a statement that the states’ agriculture growth rate was over 20% for the fifth year in a row in 2016-17.

According to the state government, value of farm output rose from Rs1,68,427 crore in 2015-16 to Rs2,22,174 crore in 2016-17, or nominal farm incomes rose by Rs53,747 crore during the year.

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