The government has taken a move to disburse Tk 180 million among the small-scale farmers of the northern districts in the second half of the current fiscal.
The entire fund will be disbursed as a part of Northwest Crop Diversification Project's (NCDP) credit support for high-value crop (HVC) production and promotion of agribusiness in the project area.
While talking to the FE, NCDP Project Director Md Shahar Uddin said some Tk 90 million had already been disbursed among the marginal farmers of the Rajshahi district from July to December 2005 under this project.
"The project arranged 129 training programmes and 300 demonstrations of technological inspiration programmes along with cultivating summer onion during the last two years", he said.
The project has also taken initiatives to develop specialised market for the poor farmers who are being deprived of getting the actual price of their produces.
The project director (PD) said in order to avoid the middlemen hazards the project imparted market management training to the farmers so that they could enjoy the benefit of their production by showcasing their own produces.
Besides, the project plans to establish a total of 76 growers' markets in the high-value crop production area. Among them, some 15 markets are expected to be launched in 2005-2006 fiscal, which are now under construction.
Out of 76 markets, 16 will be wholesale markets while seven retail markets and a single market will be established in Savar to link up with the capital city.
Project management specialist S.P Ghosh said launching of 30 growers' markets is now awaiting the approval of Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The project director agreed that the high rate of bank interest (12 per cent) for the poor farmers should be reduced by the central bank.
The project has designed allocation of 51 per cent of credit and some Tk 500 million has so far been disbursed among 97,000 small-scale farmers since the beginning of the project in 2001.
"The project has initiated Farmer Marketing Group (FMG) to market their produces and some 400 farmers have already got the FMG training", Ghosh further said.
He said of the 40,000 hectares of land, 50 per cent is utilised for high-value vegetable production while 15 per cent for fruits and 18 per cent for spices.
The seven-year project is aimed at diversifying crop production that has a good ecological effect also, he added.
The NCDP project had covered 16 northwestern districts and 61 upazilas with $ 46.3 million assistance of the ADB in 2001, that would continue up to June 2006.
The 16 districts are Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Natore, Naogaon, Pabna, Bogra, Jaipurhat, Sirajganj, Panchagar, Thakurgaon, Nilphamari, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Gaibandha, Kurigram and Lalmonirhat.
The goal of the project is to meet the nutrition demand by producing high-value crops besides rice and it also aims at poverty alleviation, the PD said.
Rajshahi Krishi Unnayan Bank (RAKUB) undertook the pilot agri-business component and would also re-lend the funds in turn to interested entrepreneurs for post-harvest activities like packaging, cold storage, feed mills, seed production and processing and specialised refrigerated transportation.
Approximately 200,000 small-scale farm families will be directly benefited from the initiative.
Md Shahar Uddin expressed the optimism that after implementation of the project, some 370,000 tonnes of HVC would be produced with an incremental value estimated at $27.9 million. The project would also generate an additional 4.4 million labour days of employment per annum.