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Distribute benefits of economic growth: President


New Delhi : India should ensure that benefits of economic growth are distributed across the country and reach marginalized sections of society, President Pratibha Patil said here Wednesday.

Inaugurating the 27th India International Trade Fair, the President noted that Indian economy was witnessing accelerated growth rate, especially in the industrial sectors of automobiles, pharmaceuticals and IT.

“It should be our endeavour to sustain this growth and ensure that it is socially inclusive, particularly for disadvantaged and marginalized sections,” she said, adding that it had to be ensured “Every region participates in and benefits from the process of economic growth that is transforming our nation”.

Commenting on the theme of this year’s fair — “processed food and agro industries” — Patil said India’s agricultural scenario was finally looking up, with agriculture exports increasing by 20 percent over last year.

However, Patil lamented that while India was one of the world’s largest food producers, it contributed only a “negligible amount” of two percent to the global processed food production.

Pointing out that India has declared food processing as a “priority sector”, she said that food processing industry should be encouraged to set up small and medium scale units closer to agricultural production centres.

“That would be useful in generating employment in rural areas and would also be beneficial to the food processing industry in terms of ensured availability of good raw material and savings on transportation costs,” said the president.

She also suggested the possibility of using processed food in government’s mid-day meal scheme.

“Agricultural produce specific to the area could be utilised, its food value enhanced by adding nutrients and women could be engaged to prepare healthy, hygienic and ready-to-eat meals for children,” said Patil.

With the world still grappling with issues of hunger eradication and poverty, she said that advances in agricultural technology and biotechnology could help in sustainable agriculture.

“We need to catalyse agricultural growth through holistic agricultural development strategies that should include women,” said Patil.

About 8,000 exhibitors from 44 countries are taking part in the two-week fair, with significant presence from all South Asian countries.

This year’s partner of the fair is the regional body in South Asia, Saarc, whose current chairperson is India.