The Centre is mulling a fresh study on the percentage of post-harvest losses of farm products following contradictory findings.
Official sources told The Hindu that a re-look is needed because while some data available with the government shows the percentage of post-harvest losses of perishables such as fruits and vegetables being as high as 30 per cent, studies commissioned by government have put it at as low as five per cent.
Organisations of small retailers, street vendors and farmers are already up in arms against the budget proposal of allowing 100 per cent FDI in marketing of food products.
Demanding a roll-back, they said it will be blatantly wrong on the part of the governmentto implement this decision ostensibly to bring down wastage from the prevailing “high levels” when actually the post-harvest losses are “very low”.
The fresh study is also aimed at countering the allegation of such critics that ‘inflated’ farm products wastage data was being shown to justify the move to permit FDI in marketing of food products.
A March 2015 report of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)—Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering and Technology (CIPHET)—in Ludhiana showed that the cumulative percentage of post-harvest losses of cereals was low in the range of 4.65–5.99 per cent while that of pulses was between 6.36–8.41 per cent and oil seeds 3.08–9.96 per cent.
As per the report, the maximum losses were in fruits and vegetables (4.58–15.88 per cent) and fisheries—marine (10.52 per cent). Percentage of post-harvest losses was low in milk (0.92 per cent), fisheries-inland (5.23 per cent), meat (2.71 per cent) and poultry (6.74 per cent).
The ICAR-CIPHET study was commissioned by the government.
However, an earlier paper put out by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (or DIPP which formulates the FDI policy) had quoted data from agriculture ministry to say that 25-30 per cent of fruits and vegetables and 5-7 per cent of food grains in India are wasted.
It said post-harvest losses of farm produce, especially of fruits, vegetables and other perishables, have been estimated to be over Rs. one trillion per annum, 57 per cent of which is avoidable wastage and the balance due to avoidable costs of storage and commission.
Senior officials of the agriculture ministry had also said earlier that over 70 per cent of the fruits and vegetable production was wasted and that it accounted for around 40 per cent in terms of economic losses.
The sources said the DIPP had objected to studies showing “very low” wastage saying these findings were far removed from the ground reality. They said there will soon be inter-ministerial discussions on the issue. Detailed guidelines on FDI in marketing of food products will ensure three main objectives: maximum returns for farmers for their produce, huge employment generation and a major boost to the food processing industry, they said.
According to the DIPP, inadequate cold storage facilities results in huge losses to farmers in terms of wastage of produce, particularly that of fruits and vegetables. It also said that despite permitting 100 per cent FDI through the automatic route (without the government approval) in cold chain, in several agricultural sector activities as well as in wholesale trade, FDI inflows into these activities were not impressive due to the crucial missing link – which is FDI in (food) retail.
Organisations that have opposed FDI in marketing of food products include Confederation of All India Traders, India FDI Watch Campaign, Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal, Federation of Associations of Maharashtra, The Hawkers Federation and Janpahal .
They said the BJP had categorically opposed FDI in multi-brand retail before it came to power at the Centre andthe party was now allowing big food companies and MNCs into multi-brand retail trade through the backdoor by allowing 100 per cent FDI in marketing of food products.