• Farmers want MNCs to invest in rural infrastructure

    Farmers across India are demanding that 100% foreign direct investment in food retail is welcome only if multinationals entering the sector invest in infrastructure and help agricultural communities become self-sufficient.

    Chengal Reddy, secretary general, Consorsium of Indian Farmers Association (CIFA), said farmers will welcome FDI in food retail since this will develop competitiveness in a market marred by monopolistic and manipulative practices.

    “But MNCs should be asked to invest in back-end infrastructure in a timebound manner, giving them enough time to understand the local systems,” he said.

    Analsyts shared his views. “We should have FDI investment in the backend infrastructure as far as possible with dynamic FPOs and monitoring by a project management agency,” said V Padmanand, director of Grant Thornton (India).

    Bharatiya Kisan Union president Balbir Singh Rajewal sounded sceptical, saying farmers will not allow unfettered entry of multinationals unless the government keeps in mind the welfare of rural communities. “You have to listen to farmers first before making big policy announcements. If Britain can hold a referendum over leaving the European Union, why can’t our government consider the interest of farmers before announcing such a policy…If the companies are asked to invest 15% in rural infrastructure, it will be very good,” he said.

    Farmer leaders said a large number of farmers, who have organised themselves into the Farmer Producer Companies (FPO), are keen to do business with MNCs, and benefit from the higher investment capacity of foreign players, and their knowledge. Farmers also think that foreign players, who know the demand of consumers from developed countries, can help them upgrade their skills to match those requirements, if they are made to invest at the back-end.

    “Farmers are small and widespread and it needs high investment to connect with them, which none of the Indian food retailers have done so far. They can introduce standardisation of agricultural produce, its branding and upgrade the skills of Indian farmers,” said Reddy.

    Gangadhar Chindhe, chairman, Garbhagiri FPO, reckons that farmers can benefit more if investors are made to pump in money at the farm level. Matt Martin Authentic Jersey

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