Farmers stand to benefit, says Chief Minister

Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy on Saturday welcomed foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector.

He said he had given his consent for FDI in the retail sector in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently even as some States were opposed to the move on the ground that it would lead to closure of small and roadside outlets. He was addressing a gathering of farmers on the Horticulture University campus here as part of his second of the Indiramma Baata programme.

Mr. Reddy expressed confidence that farmers would benefit from the move by way of having a chain of cold storages and godowns with the help of FDI for preservation of agricultural products, mostly perishable in nature, and finding better market facilities. “The farmers will definitely get better prices than what they are getting now if a chain of retail outlets comes up. I can vouch for it,” he said.

The Chief Minister favoured integration of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) with agricultural operations so as to mitigate unrest among the farmers over increasing labour cost in the farm sector. He said he had aired his views on the scheme in a one-on-one meeting with the Prime Minister recently.

The daily wage rates for each worker had gone up to Rs.300 from Rs.50 after the introduction of the scheme in some areas which presently guarantees 100 man-days for each worker. He cautioned that the government may have to ensure employment guarantee for 300 days in a year if the agriculture sector shifted to mechanisation. A paddy transplanter, for instance, would save the farmers from spending Rs.4,000-Rs.5,000 an acre toward labour charges and eliminate the role of manual labour in the process.

The State government was planning to invest Rs.2,500 crore on mechanisation in agriculture to insulate farmers from the labour problem and the soaring cultivation cost, reportedly caused by the MGNREGS.