Agri-infra fund

The government has recently approved setting up an agri-infra fund with a corpus of Rs 1 lakh crore to provide financial support to agri-entrepreneurs, start-ups, agri-tech players and farmer groups for infrastructure and logistics facilities.

The agri-infra fund was part of the over Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus package announced in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The new agri-infra fund, the duration of which will be 10 years till 2029, aims to provide medium-to-long term debt financing facility for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management infrastructure and community farming assets through interest subvention and financial support.

Under this, about Rs 1 lakh crore will be provided by banks and financial institutions as loans to primary agri credit societies, farmer groups, farmer producer organisations (FPOs), agri-entrepreneurs, start-ups and agri-tech players.

Loans will be disbursed in four years starting with sanction of Rs 10,000 crore in the current year and Rs 30,000 crore each in the next three financial years, he said.

All loans under this financing facility will have interest subvention of 3 per cent per annum up to a limit of Rs 2 crore. This subvention will be available for a maximum period of seven years.

Further, credit guarantee coverage will be available for eligible borrowers from this financing facility under the Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme for a loan of up to Rs 2 crore. The fee for this coverage will be paid by the government.

In case of FPOs, credit guarantee may be availed from the facility created under the FPO promotion scheme of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DACFW).

The funds will be provided for setting up of cold stores and chains, warehousing, silos, assaying, grading and packaging units, e-marketing points linked to e-trading platforms and ripening chambers, besides PPP projects for crop aggregation sponsored by central/state/local bodies.

The agri-infra fund, which will be managed and monitored through an online Management Information System (MIS) platform, will enable all the qualified entities to apply for loan under the fund.

The online platform will also provide benefits such as transparency of interest rates offered by multiple banks, scheme details including interest subvention and credit guarantee offered, minimum documentation, faster approval process as also integration with other scheme benefits.

Facilitating formal credit to farm and farm processing-based activities is expected to create numerous job opportunities in rural areas.