Farmers' panel 'divided' over benefits | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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Farmers' panel 'divided' over benefits

The Punjab State Farmers' Commission seems to be divided on whether foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector will benefit farmers or not. Commission chairman GS Kalkat thinks that farmers won't gain much from FDI, while PS Rangi, a consultant with the commission, sees it as a good opportunity for farmers to increase their income.

chandigarh Updated: Sep 29, 2012 12:07 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber

The Punjab State Farmers' Commission seems to be divided on whether foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector will benefit farmers or not.


Commission chairman GS Kalkat thinks that farmers won't gain much from FDI, while PS Rangi, a consultant with the commission, sees it as a good opportunity for farmers to increase their income.

"Farmers' earnings would be easily doubled," Rangi said. "There are three to four stages of middlemen, which would be wiped out when foreign retailers enter the Indian market, especially Punjab. These companies would start procuring fruits, vegetables and milk directly from farmers," Rangi added.

"The existing food chain is very lengthy, due to which it takes a long time for the produce to reach the retailer. The post-harvest losses are 25 to 30%. When this path is shortened, losses would be minimal and the benefit would be passed on to the consumer," said Rangi.

According to Kalkat, FDI or local investment in retail can benefit farmers only if the produce is picked up from the local grower. "In any case, 85% of the farmers' produce (wheat and paddy) would continue to go through commission agents. I think this system would continue for many more years," he pointed.

The Shiromani Akali Dal-led Punjab government is supporting its alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), against FDI in retail, a reform measure announced by the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre.

'Baseless panic'
PS Rangi said the Punjab government had needlessly pressed the panic button by declaring to reduce the area under paddy cultivation from 28 lakh hectares to 15 lakh hectares. He said as per long-term projections, India could become deficient in foodgrains in the next few years.

"In that case, where would the foodgrains come from," he asked.

Recently, union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had asked Punjab to cut down the area under paddy. On the union minister's advisory, GS Kalkat said the entire process to reduce area under paddy cultivation could take five to 10 years.