One of the former inisters in Maharashtra’s Sangli district is busy encouraging his supporters to form farmer producer organisations (FPOs), while his opponents, too, are opting for the same tactics to keep their vote banks intact.
As the cooperative movement dominated by politicians has been mired in corruption, the Union Government is encouraging farmers to form FPOs. But Maharashtra politicians are not ready to free farmers from their clutches.
In 2020, the Centre launched a scheme for setting up 10,000 FPOs with an outlay of ₹6,865 crore.
The plan is to leverage economies of scale, reduce cost of production and, thus, boost farmers’ income.
Politics of FPOs
“Don’t be surprised if 90 per cent of these FPOs are unsuccessful and fail to yield the expected results. Politicians are encouraging their henchmen to start FPOs so that they can continue to control the lives of farmers who are treated as vote banks,” said one of the senior trainers who is involved in the incubation of FPOs.
Some of the FPOs in the State which are trying to scale up their business have lamented that the government was just focusing on numbers and not the sustainability of the FPOs.
“The co-operative sector has been ruined—be it sugar mills or banks. Now, the politicians want to dominate the FPO movement and this would prove disastrous. The aim of the FPO movement is to enable farmers but politicians have other interests in forming FPOs,” said one of the directors of a prominent FPO in Maharashtra.
According to the Centre’s guidelines, FPOs are to be developed in clusters, wherein agricultural and horticultural produce is grown /cultivated for leveraging economies of scale and improving market access for members.
Formation and promotion of FPOs are being done through implementing agencies (IAs), which further engage cluster-based business organisations (CBBOs) to form and provide professional handholding support to FPOs for a period of five years.
So far, a total of 8,716 FPOs produce clusters have been allocated to IAs for the formation of FPOs out of which a total of 3,179 FPOs have been registered across the country. Official data further show that a total of 569 FPOs have been formed in Maharashtra till March 2022.
Farmers who are form FPOs have urged the government and implementing agencies to ensure that politicians don’t hijack the FPO movement.