60 years Baban Emptied is one of many locals living around Dirghayu Farms Agri Resort in Shahapur, on the outskirts of Mumbai. Before the existence of this agrotourism center, he had to travel long distances to earn a living. But things are different for him and others in the area after the transformation of the private farm into an agro-centre.
For Bharati Pardhe, finding a job at the agrotourism center has not only helped her find a steady income, but also supported her child’s education. She said, “This agricultural station has helped improve my living conditions.
The Mumbai-based couple – Dr Ashwinee Kotkar and Pravin Kotkar – who own and run Dirghayu Farms Agri Resort, had started cultivation on the property for personal use. But later, they understood the impact of this business on their income and on the inhabitants. This encouraged them to make it an agricultural station.
Pravin Kotkar said, “What started as an agricultural estate has now become a center for agrotourism, creating direct and indirect jobs in the region. Such centers in various places will be a boon to an agrarian state like Maharashtra.
Agritourism Policy in Maharashtra
After realizing the potential of agro-tourism hubs, the government of Maharashtra in September 2020 approved an agro-tourism policy. The policy was introduced with the aim of improving farmers’ incomes and boosting the rural economy; and to help tourists have a happy experience.
The tourist can spend time on a farm and learn the different facets of agriculture. Even before policy was developed for such agricultural centers, the state had created demand for the segment – by making a farm visit mandatory for schoolchildren as part of their school curriculum.
This helps farmers or farms not only to attract tourists to these centers but also to find consumers for their agricultural products or value-added products. Even when COVID hit, Dirghayu Farm was able to sell farm produce directly to urban customers, Kotkar hinted.
Pandurang Taware, founder of Agri Tourism Development Corporation (ATDC) had gained new notoriety by appearing in Shark Tank India.
He said, “The state created demand for these farm centers by making school visits mandatory. In 2017, the state made it mandatory for schools to visit farms. demand, but the supply of quality agricultural centers continues to be low.”
The agrotourism policy should fill this gap. Meanwhile, Taware added in 2019, the state segment attracted about 15 to 20 lakh visitors.
Dhananjay Sawalkar, Co-Director of the Maharashtra Tourism Authority, said, “Agritourism is a very strong vertical in the tourism sector in Maharashtra. We developed the policy two years ago. We are the first state in the country to offer an agritourism policy.
Maharashtra has been divided into nine agro-climatic zones based on annual rainfall, soil types, vegetation and cultivation patterns, providing more and more options for tourists.
“Urban India has lost touch with the ground. And such farms will provide a glimpse of rural life,” Taware added. According to a survey conducted by ATDC, it has been found that more and more people living in urban India have lost contact or no longer have relatives in rural India.
According to the agrotourism policy, an individual farmer, agricultural cooperative societies, agricultural research centers, agricultural universities or agricultural producer companies can establish agricultural centers. The national tourism department will certify these centers and then renew them.
This certification will allow these centers to benefit from various tax advantages, borrowing options and other advantages.
There are more than 500 recognized centers to date. Sawalkar added that the state has received over 250 applications over the past 3 months. “Agritourism is developing more significantly. Farmers say their incomes improved by more than 40% after the center was set up,” he added.
The existing operators in this space fear that the State could reverse the good obtained by the policy if the quality of these centers is compromised by the operators. Kotkar said, “The state should have a vigilance or action committee to keep checks and balances in place that will go a long way.” Otherwise, the overall concept will be affected, Kotkar added.
More and more states are coming forward
The success of this policy has attracted interest from states like Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Pandurang Taware is in discussions with certain States to assist them in developing this policy. UP has already recognized 18 districts to promote agrotourism.
While other states are still developing their policies, Maharashtra has made periodic changes to its policy based on the needs of the segment, including allowing private investment in such farms.
Today, 70% of India’s rural households still depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihoods and as more states develop similar policies, India’s agritourism industry could grow by 20% per year. year and represent a significant share of the global agritourism market, which is expected to reach $62.98 billion by 2027.
First post: STI