"These students will be selected on the basis of merit. They will explore modern agricultural practices that can be implemented in Maharashtra," Patil added. He said the state government is also organising a ten-day study trip to various countries for around 300 farmers and some agriculture ministry officials, enthused by good responses to the programme which was started last fiscal. As many as 540 farmers were sent abroad last year.
Farmers will be sent to Israel for micro-irrigation and plasticulture technology, to Europe for dairy, processing, market study and flora, Holland for flower auction, bee-keeping and agri mechanisation and handling of farm produce, Vietnam and Malaysia for paddy and tropical fruit cultivation and agriculture operations and food processing. The state is also planning to send farmers to South America, South Africa, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
"This initiative is becoming popular as we are receiving more and more applications. We have about 1,700-1,800 applications pending with us. However, we are giving preference to women and award-winning farmers," Patil said. "The farmers, who are sent in batches of 45 each, are accompanied by two senior officers from agriculture department and university, who will help guide them in local language."
Under this initiative, the state provides 50% of the tour cost and the rest is borne by the farmer concerned. A budgetary allocation of Rs 10 crore for each fiscal year is earmarked, which would be raised depending on the need and response, Patil said. The selection process for this trip is done by a committee, which ensure that the applications are from farmers, he said.
The state has set up a mechanism to monitor the programme and feedback to ensure the knowledge is spread.