Farmer producer organizations (FPOs) from six states of India are benefiting from the agribusiness facilitation of ICRISAT that will enable them to operate as businesses and make their farm operations sustainable and profitable.

At a recent Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) Summit, smallholder producers convened to explore agribusiness opportunities in the areas of technology penetration, improving productivity and access to inputs and services, and increasing incomes for a sustainable agriculture-based livelihood.

Organized by the Agri-Business Incubation (ABI) Program of ICRISAT, on 27 October the one-day summit was attended by over 100 smallholder producers from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

FPO SummitOf the 100 participants, 12 have shown interest in Seed Business Incubation and Seed Production of Cereals (sorghum, millet) and Legumes (groundnut, pigeonpea, chickpea), five for Business Incubation Support, 14 for Food Business Incubation support and six for Seed and Food Processing incubation.

At the summit, ABI-ICRISAT provided the participants with extensive knowledge and information, as well as networking support in setting-up and promoting FPOs. The participants were composed of aspiring entrepreneurs, progressive farmers, members of self-help groups, and representatives from farmers’ welfare and rural livelihood development organizations.

“The FPO approach is an intervention owned, managed and executed by smallholder farmers themselves. We need to scale up and increase the number of FPOs through agribusiness incubators so that we can bring in more stakeholders in making agriculture more sustainable and profitable,”  Dr William Dar, Director General, ICRISAT, said.

“In India, 35% of farmers do not have access to organized credit. With significant movement of rural labor from farm to non-farm activities, labor scarcity has emerged as one of the biggest constraints to agricultural production in the country. Mechanization of agriculture is the only solution to improve farming,” said Mr CVR Rajendran, Chairman and Managing Director of Andhra Bank.

According to Mr Ramakrishnaiah Duvvuri, Team Leader, Management Support Group – Farmer Producer Organizations (MSG-FPO), Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC), “FPOs are essential for the empowerment, poverty alleviation and advancement of farmers and the rural poor. The Ministry of Agriculture has declared the year 2014 as the Year of the Farmer Producer Organizations. Through better marketing of agricultural products and bargaining for lower interest rates from the banks, smallholder farmers will be able to expand their employment opportunities and increase their rural incomes.”

“We have made progress in promoting and organizing farmers to become FPOs, but much work is still needed to make these organizations scalable and sustainable. Today’s summit aims to provide the participants with information on how to access markets and secure finance, and to identify the role of agribusiness incubators in taking the FPO initiative forward,” said Mr SM Karuppanchetty, COO, ABI-ICRISAT.

At the summit, participants gained a better understanding of the gaps and opportunities for FPOs in agribusiness, initiatives by the government through various schemes, capital and funding schemes, and networking opportunities for FPO developers and funding agencies. Mr Poomurugesan, Executive Director of the Kazhi Kadmadai Farmers Federation, an ABI-ICRISAT supported FPO in Tamil Nadu, presented his success story.