Maharashtra farmers reap benefits as govt sends them on world tour

EARLIER this year, Sunil Kadam, 38, a sugarcane farmer from Kolhapur, went to Europe, where he visited dairies and cheese processing units in Amsterdam, saw greenhouses being run on solar energy in Germany and learnt more about mixed farming. A couple of months later, Kadam started a dairy unit to supplement his income, employing some specialised techniques that he picked up from farmers in Amsterdam.

Kadam was one of the first batch of 172 farmers sent abroad as part of the state government's initiative to "educate" them. While the state government funds half their expenses upto Rs 1 lakh, the farmers are expected to pay the remaining amount.

"I had never been on a flight till my recent tour. The chance to see the world at a concessional rate was too tempting," said Kadam, whose total expenses added up to Rs 1.19 lakh.

The state plans to send 1,000 farmers on these guided tours to Europe, South America, South Africa, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. A budgetary allocation of Rs 10 crore has been made for the scheme. The next batch is set to leave for Europe on July 22.

While a travel company is shortlisted through tenders, the state agriculture department prepares the itinerary which normally includes visits to dairy farms, orchards, fruit processing centres, vegetable farms and greenhouses.

Farmers are selected on a first-come first-serve basis through applications submitted to the regional offices. They can choose the places that they want to visit. Two officials from the agriculture department and a translator accompany them. The state is now planning to rope in experts from agriculture colleges also.

"It was a wonderful experience. We could see for ourselves what farmers in Europe are doing. The interpreters would explain things to us," said Kadam.

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