Big retail should embrace small shops: minister


Chennai : Instead of setting up fresh infrastructure, corporate retail chains should partner with neighbourhood shopkeepers so that there is all-round inclusive growth, said Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahai.

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This way, corporate retailers can fend off opposition shown by some state governments and political parties, the minister pointed out.

“The campaign against corporate retailers would actually kill opportunities for Indian farmers,” he added.

Sahai was inaugurating a two-day international conference and exhibition on agri-business and food processing named “Farm to Fork” organised by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) here Friday.

The minister said the government was alive to the issue of increasing agricultural productivity across the country.

He said there should be agriculture planning at the district level and also climatic zoning so as to have predictable cropping patterns.

Although India is one of the largest producers of fruits and vegetables in the world, nearly 33 percent of the produce goes waste for want of proper storage and processing facilities, he pointed out.

As industry players – food processors and retailers – would like to source their requirements directly from farmers and not from the local markets, Sahai said, only the post-harvest sector can add value to the Indian farming community.

Noting that processed foods are not subject to excise duty, Sahai said the value-added tax (VAT) should be in the 0-4 percent band and not higher so that the sector grows faster.

He asked state governments to wake up to the needs and potential of the food-processing sector.

Stressing the importance of contract farming, Sahai said the practice already exists in India.

“People are quitting farming as fresh investment is not happening in the sector. Allowing contract farming is one way to stop farmers quitting agriculture,” he said.

M. Rafeeque Ahmed, chairman, Ficci, Tamil Nadu State Council, and D. Kebschull, chief programme coordinator, European Union Trade and Investment Development Programme, also addressed the gathering.