“Political parties opposing the Foreign Direct Investment [FDI] in multi-brand retail should change their stance and think about farmers,” Union Minister for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahai said in response to whether the Centre should talk to parties opposing FDI in retail trade.
The Minister was speaking here on Thursday on the sidelines of the India-International Potato Expo-2010.
“In the potato-growing West Bengal, contract farming is being done by private companies. But the State will not admit it. So instead of opposing FDI, the parties running the State should bring in law to support contract farming and post-harvest management.”
Welcoming the move to allow FDI in retail, he said it was a long-standing demand of the food processing sector.
“It will help farmers' produce to be sold in the world market through linkages with FDI companies. The big chains will not go to small and rural markets, so artiyas [middle men] and small vendors will remain. The fear that small players will be hurt is unfounded.”
Lamenting that the Planning Commission and the Finance Ministry had not paid adequate attention to the food processing sector, Mr. Sahai said that with proper investment and infrastructure development, “India can become the food factory for the world.”
He urged State governments to take advantage of the growth potential of the sector and initiate policies that help enhance farm productivity and management of post-harvest produce, contract farming and food processing industries.
“The second green revolution can happen only if we go in for market-oriented agriculture with a cluster approach,” he said.
Addressing the conference, agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan said wheat and rice alone cannot provide food security to the people and that the food basket must be expanded.
The conference, organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce, will debate over two days the various aspects of potato, including production, productivity, business development, processing and storage and technologies.
India is the fifth largest potato-producing country after China, Russia, Poland and the U.S..
Domestically, Uttar Pradesh is the largest potato producer, followed by West Bengal, Bihar, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Assam.
Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Bihar account for 80 per cent of the total production in the country.