A day after winning the crucial vote on FDI in multi-brand retail in Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday that the move would benefit farmers and consumers alike.
Speaking at the golden jubilee convocation of Punjab Agricultural University in the presence of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, whose party opposed retail FDI in Parliament, the PM made a direct appeal to the “hardworking” and “progressive” agricultural community of the state, asking them to rise to the opportunity the way they had done to bring in the Green Revolution. He also pointed out that the FDI move had been strongly supported by Punjab farmers’ organisations.
Saying that the move will “introduce new technology and investment” into the inefficient agricultural marketing network, the PM said: “India, I sincerely feel, must take full advantage of modern technology and the operational and management experience of big supply chains in the food retail business. I am confident that it will benefit our farmers and consumers.”
Underlining the benefits for Punjab, Singh said: “The scope for building such supply chains is especially large in the more advanced agricultural states and Punjab can be a torchbearer in this shift. Punjab, I suggest, should take the lead in encouraging best practices in crop management and in improving food safety and hygiene.”
The PM also underlined the need for Punjab to shift away from the dominant rice-wheat cropping pattern, particularly the water-guzzling paddy due to falling water tables, and take to “diversification”. However, any such shift — to “soyabean, fruits and vegetables”, for example — Singh said, was also dependent on reforming the agricultural supply chains.
“Some of these crops are perishable. The development of efficient and vertically integrated supply chains can take care of some of these issues,” the PM said.
He also urged Punjab Agricultural University to look for solutions to deal with new marketing challenges. “Research can play a major role in developing varieties more suitable to different market tastes and with longer shelf life.”
However, Singh remained mum over the demand of Rs 5,000 crore made by Punjab for the crop diversification project.
He urged the state government to develop post-farm agro-processing linkages which can provide employment to the youth of Punjab, also stressing on special attention on education and skill development. “Punjab’s youth can provide investors with a productive workforce if given proper education and skills,” he said.