Campaigning in the election-bound Punjab, union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday pitched for FDI in multi-brand retail, emphasising once again that India needs massive investments to build agri-infrastructure.
Pointing out that the SAD-led Punjab government had initially welcomed the FDI policy but took a U-turn later, Mukherjee described how it would have helped farmers of Punjab, a major grain-producing state.
"We are the second largest vegetable producer after China and second largest fruit producer after Brazil. But not even 20 % of these products are properly processed," he said at the Punjab PCC office here.
"Farmers of Punjab would have benefited from both backend and frontend linkages. In frontal linkages they would have got storing facilities and cold storage chains. If big companies come and directly buy products from farmers, it will also help them to get better prices," Mukherjee added.
The UPA government was forced to put the decision, to allow 51 % FDI in multi-brand retail, on hold after all-round protests that even saw key ally Trinamool Congress opposing the move. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later remarked that he hopes FDI retail will roll out after the assembly polls.
To drive home his point, Mukherjee said how MNCs had earlier improved the potato and tomato market. The finance minister added that the Centre was trying to help Punjab and two other debt-stressed states to ease its financial burden.