NEW DELHI: Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has strongly recommended that multi-brand food retail stores should be allowed to sell products such as soaps, shampoos and toothpaste if they ensure that at least 20% of their total investment helps farmers access better technology and infrastructure. Badal also said she was initiating major changes in her ministry, which included digitising operations.
This will kick out paperwork and make bureaucrats totally accountable for delays. But these steps, she said, were meeting stiff resistance within her ministry. She also plans to create an empowered body similar to the National Highways Authority of India to ensure continuity and better execution. The government announced in the budget that 100% foreign direct investment would be allowed through the approval route in the marketing of food products produced and manufactured in India. The objective is to benefit farmers, give an impetus to the food processing industry and create employment opportunities.
“I am very clear that if the policy doesn’t help our farmers and it’s the middlemen which become richer and fatter and multinational becomes richer, then we have defeated the whole purpose of bringing a policy, where farmers can’t reap the benefit,” she said.
Badal said the sale of Indian homecare products would be beneficial. “So the industry had talked about homecare products, which may be a soap or a shampoo, toothpaste and all these things, which I thought, if they were also made in India, it will create employment, revenue generation. That could be a sweetener that how much infrastructure you create at the farm gate, that much you are allowed for homecare products,” she said.
“My aim was to use videshi paisa to help our swadeshi farmer for creation of swadeshi infrastructure. That was my whole aim. I was very categorical that certain percentage of FDI that was coming in should be mandatory for creating infrastructure at farm level. After talking to all stakeholders and foreign companies, they said that they had no issue, as in food retail they would anyway have to do that,” she said.
Her top priority is to make sure that farmers gain from foreign direct investment in multibrand food retail. She said industry had argued that margins were very tight in the business and increasing prices would drive customers away. Industry therefore wanted a “sweetener” in the form of retailing of homecare products. “If I had a choice, I would have given them the sweetener as it made sense to me…I think the commerce ministry probably just thought let’s bring in a policy that will be very popular as it will have no riders. This is what I have written and I am pushing for,” the minister said.
article source: The Economic Times / 27-May-2016