Agricultural Credit Policy
Rural indebtedness is an age-old problem in India. In the nineteenth century, commercial banking was non-existent in rural areas, and farmers were completely in the hands of usurious moneylenders. Starting from the days of British rule, the central government has been striving to expand institutional lending to the rural agricultural sector. In recent decades, efforts in this direction have intensified and today, there is a vast network of institutions providing credit for agriculture
When the State Bank of India was created in July 1955, extending banking services to rural and semi-urban areas was made one of its objectives. Until 1966, co-operatives were viewed as the main instrument for extending agricultural credit. The All-India Rural Credit Review Committee (1969) recommended the adoption of a “multi-agency approach” towards agriculture and rural credit and commercial banks were expected to complement the efforts of co-operatives to enhance the quantum of credit in the rural economy. The nationalisation of commercial banks in 1969 made it possible for government to become more proactive on expanding credit to agriculture. In the same year, the concept of a ‘lead bank’ was introduced by the Reserve Bank of India; each bank was expected to concentrate on a specific geographical area to increase the flow of credit to agriculture and to promote overall development in rural areas within its area of operation.
A directed credit programme towards certain priority sectors was a major development policy in both developed and developing countries in the 1960s. The shortfall in agricultural output in India in 1966 and 1967 helped focus attention on the need for commercial banks to increase their involvement in financing agricultural activities. Under the concept of priority sector lending introduced in 1972, commercial banks were mandated to advance a certain proportion of their funds to these priority sectors, which included agriculture and small-scale industries.
The Narasimham Committee on rural credit (1975) recommended the establishment of Regional Rural Banks, as it was of the view that neither commercial banks nor co-operative institutions were able to meet agricultural credit needs. Another major step taken towards the development of rural credit was the establishment of NABARD in 1982 by a special act of Parliament on the recommendation of the Committee to Review Arrangement for Institutional Credit for Agriculture and Rural Development. Its mission is to “promote sustainable and equitable agriculture and rural prosperity through effective credit support, related services, institution development and other innovative initiatives” (NABARD).
Three other initiatives, viz., the Kisan Credit Card Scheme, Self Help Group-Bank Linkage Programme and Special Agricultural Credit Plans were put in place in the 1990s to increase the flow of credit to the agricultural sector. The increased lending to agriculture accelerated, particularly after the government adopted doubling of agricultural credit policy (DCAP) over a three-year period beginning in 2003-04.
Despite the successive efforts taken by the government, the latest All India Debt and Investment Survey (AIDIS) by the NSSO shows that non-institutional agencies still accounted for as much as 44 per cent of outstanding dues in 2012-13, an increase from the 36 per cent level in 1990-91. The ground level institutional credit flow to agriculture has shown a significant increase of more than ten times from Rs.0.53 lakh crore in 2001-02 to Rs.6.07 lakh crore in 2012-13 (Annual Report NABARD, 2013-14). And yet, only about half of 14 crore farm households were covered by formal institutions while the remaining were dependent on informal sources such as moneylenders who charge exorbitantly high rates of interest.
Special Agriculture Credit Plan
With a view to ensuring that the flow of credit to agriculture increases substantially, RBI advised banks in 1994-95 to prepare an action plan for disbursement of credit to agriculture. Accordingly, each bank prepares a Special Agricultural Credit Plan (SACP), segregated into quarterly targets, which is monitored by the RBI. Earlier, the SCAP mechanism was applicable only to the public sector banks but it was extended to private sector banks in 2005-06.
2004 Initiative for Doubling of Agricultural Credit
In June 2004, the central government announced a package of measures aimed at doubling agricultural credit over three years, starting with a credit growth of 30 per cent for 2004-05. The measures taken by the Reserve Bank and the Indian Banks Association in respect of commercial banks and by NABARD in respect of co-operative banks and the RRBs included debt restructuring and fresh loans to farmers affected by natural calamities, one time settlement for small and marginal farmers, fresh finance to farmers whose earlier debts had been settled and relief measures for farmers indebted to private money lenders. This initiative was immensely successful and the actual disbursement of credit exceeded the three-year target. Encouraged by the expansion of credit, the central government fixed targets for subsequent years as well. The target increased at an annual compound growth rate of 21 percent in the period beginning from 2004 to 2014.
Kisan Credit Cards
The Kisan Credit Cards Scheme, introduced in August 1998, is an innovative credit delivery mechanism to meet the credit needs of the farmer. Apart from providing short-term and term loans, a certain component of KCC also covers consumption needs. An important feature of the scheme from the outset was that once the documentation to establish the bona fide and assets of beneficiaries is done, they could approach financial institution for simple and hassle free sanction of credit from the second year onwards. Further progress was made in later years and now the passbook has been replaced by a plastic card, and the Kisan Credit Card is an ATM enabled debit card. Under the earlier system, disbursal of short-term credit to agriculture was mostly through demand loans and cash credit, which permitted withdrawals mainly through debit vouchers, saving accounts and through bankers’ cheques. However, the traditional system of loan disbursement through passbooks were replaced by ATM-enabled debit cards with facility for withdrawal/disbursement of loan. The main objective is to develop a cashless eco system by enabling the farming community to avail of banking facilities. Its use has spread over the vast institutional credit framework involving commercial banks, RRBs and co-operatives.
Financial Inclusion Programmes
The outreach of agriculture credit to farmers by covering them through bank accounts is one of the most important factors that have led to the recent expansion of agricultural credit. According to the latest data released by AIDIS (2013), 68.8 per cent of rural households and 79.5 per cent of urban households had bank accounts.
As part of the financial inclusion programme, the government had launched the Swabhiman scheme in 2011 to extend the reach of banking in rural areas initially to approximately 74,000 habitations with a population of more than 2,000. It aimed to provide branchless banking services in the remotest areas through banking correspondents, making use of technology.
Performance of Institutional Credit Agencies In the year 1975-76, co-operative banks accounted for the largest share of 75 per cent, followed by commercial banks at 25 per cent and RRBs at 0.13 per cent. In 1990-91, the shares of cooperative institutions and commercial banks were almost equal at 48 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively. Thereafter, there has been a turnaround in the position of these two institutions. There is a gradual decline in the share of co-operatives and an increase in the share of commercial banks. By 2012-13, the share of co-operative banks had fallen to around 17 per cent while that of commercial banks had increased to 73 per cent.
National Agricultural Research System (NARS)
The National Agricultural Research ACT, 2005 provides for the development of an agricultural research system for Uganda, hereby referred to as the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), for the purpose of improving agricultural research services delivery, financing and management. The NARS means a cross section of stakeholders whether in public or private sector; and comprises of the organisation, public agricultural research institutes, universities and other tertiary institutions, farmer groups, civil society organisation, private sector and any other entity engaged in the provision of agricultural research services. The NARS institutional framework encompass Public as well as Private sector institutions in implementing agricultural research, and promoting vertical and horizontal linkages with other national, regional and international institutions.
The NARS Objectives
The Objectives of agricultural research in Uganda are to:
- Transform agricultural production into a modern science-based market oriented agriculture capable of greater efficiency, profitability and of sustaining growth in the agricultural sector while contributing to poverty eradication;
- Promote agriculture and related industry for the purposes of contributing to the improvement of the quality of life and livelihoods of the people, having regard to the protection of the environment; and
- Support the development and implementation of national policy with relevant information and knowledge.