FDI good for farmers and consumers: Pawar

New Delhi – Foreign investment in multi-brand retail was welcome and would benefit farmers and consumers both, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said Tuesday.

Farmers would benefit with significant reduction in post harvest losses and get better prices for their crop, while consumers would gain from lower prices and higher quality of produce, Pawar said while addressing the Economic Editors Conference here.

The minister also said that foodgrain production had been marginally affected by the deficient rainfall this year.

“The total production of foodgrains is estimated to be lower by 1.68 million tonnes than the average production of 118.86 million tonnes. However, this amounts to a decline of only 1.4 percent from the average production,” Pawar said.

He added that the widespread rains that occurred in August-September and the late withdrawal of the monsoon were good for the rabi crop as the moisture content in soil had increased.

India had achieved average growth rate of 3.3 percent in agriculture during the 11th Plan, which was better than the earlier times, and aimed to push growth rate to four percent in the 12th Plan, the minister said.

Pawar also said that India has become the second largest exporter in the world of agriculture produce – exporting 10 million tonnes of rice, 2.5 million tonnes of wheat and sugar and 40 lakh bales of cotton. “India is the second largest exporter of rice after China.”

On the huge quantity of foodgrains that go waste due to non-availability of proper storage facility, he said the government has launched a new scheme – Bhandar scheme – in villages, with an outlay of Rs.750 crore.

“We have also invited the private sector to build godowns, which the Food Corporation of India will pay for. We have got good response to the scheme. The godowns will be for 40,000 tonne storage capacity,” he added.

Discussing farmer suicides, Pawar said the numbers have been decreasing over the years. In Maharashtra, the numbers have come down from 1,035 in 2006, and this year, there had been 118 cases so far, he said, adding that the reasons behind the suicides ranged from poor remuneration prices to crop failure.

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