Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Tuesday called for fully opening up foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail of food products produced and processed in India so as to benefit farmers and reduce inflation.
“I have requested the Prime Minister that 100% FDI in multi-brand retail of food products produced and processed in India should be allowed, so that those big companies can create infrastructure especially for the agriculture sector and bring the latest technology for the farm sector,” she said at the eighth Global Food Processing Summit organised by industry chamber Assocham.
“This is in the interests of both consumers and farmers as it will bring down food inflation, create more jobs and lead to rapid infrastructure development,” she said.
Harsimrat noted that FDI in multi-brand retail had come in the food sector in India, for example, in her home state Punjab.
“It has benefitted everybody, there is no trader in the middle who has lost out, there is no farmer who has lost, no industry has lost out, so it has been a win-win situation and it has been a tried-and-tested formula,” she added.
India allows foreign investment up to 51% in the multi-brand retail sector.
Describing food processing in India as a “sunrise sector” that is only processing 2% of the perishable produce, she said it was imperative to focus on it towards improving conditions of farmers across India.
“It will help benefit the consumer by reducing inflation, reduce wastage, increase availability of fresh and processed variety of food at a stable price, and improve farming technology,” she said.
“As the food processing sector grows, it will lead to increase in demand for farmers’ produce. Things such as technology transfer, imparting technical know-how and promoting usage of better seeds can further help in uplifting the standard of farmers in the country,” she added.
The minister also informed the gathering that the government planned to open four more mega food parks by the end of the financial year.
“We plan to operationalise two mega food parks within this month, and two more before March,” Harsimrat said.