Demand for subsidised loans for agri tourism

The Maharashtra State Agriculture & Rural Tourism Co-operation Federation (MART) has urged the state government to ensure that loans for agri tourism are provided at subsidised interest rate, similar to that of agricultural loans.

"The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development has certified agri tourism as an emerging business and the district cooperative banks and nationalised banks provide loans for the purpose. However, the interest rate is around 11 per cent. The loans should be given at the rate applicable for agriculture, which is never more than six per cent," said Pandurang Taware, managing director, MART.

In a memorandum to the state agriculture ministry and state tourism ministry, the federation has requested the government to extend agri tourism projects benefits similar to any agriculture project. Generally, farmers are able to repay loans for agri tourism within three years of launching the projects, Taware said. Both the ministries will convene a meeting later this month to formulate a policy to promote agri tourism, according to Taware.

Since its inception in 2004, the agri tourism concept in the state has been successful, with 50 stations being approved so far, he said, adding that the maximum of 23 agri tourism stations have been green-lighted in Pune district. Last fiscal, around three lakh tourists visited the various agri tourism stations in the state, Taware said. Most of the tourists are from within the country and MART is aiming at promoting it at the international level too. "We have been invited to exhibit our concept in the International Tourism Fair in London in November. This would help in attracting foreign tourists," Taware said.

The idea behind agri tourism is to provide an additional source of income to farmers while ensuring that their farm land remains intact. Pune-based Chandrakant Sanas of Girija Agri-tourism said agri-tourism has helped him augment his annual earnings.

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