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Rs 54,000 Cr Worth Food Wasted Every Year

Monday, July 29, 2013

An IMC panel discussion on ‘2013 Monsoon: Impact on Agriculture and Food Prices’ throws up some disturbing facts

A country where more than 20% of the population is below the poverty line, Rs.54,000 crores worth of grains and farm produce is wasted every year. This and many more startling revelations came to the fore at a panel discussion `2013 Monsoon: Impact on Agriculture and Food Prices’, organized by the Indian Merchants’ Chamber, recently at IMC, Mumbai.

The elite panel comprising Dr. S. K. Goel, Additional Chief Secretary, Agriculture Department, Government of Maharashtra,   Samir Shah, MD, NCDEX,  Kishore Tanna, Vice Chairman, IOPEPC and  Madan Sabnavis, Chief Economist, CARE Ratings took centre stage and shared their views.

Making this startling revelation,  Kishore Tanna, Vice Chairman, IOPEPC (Indian Oilseeds & Produce Export Promotion Council), an organization engaged in promoting oilseeds and oil, said, “Wastage is a major concern. Approximately, Rs.54,000 crores worth of grains and farm produce is wasted. Plugging this hole in itself would be a great achievement.” Commenting on this year’s positive monsoon scenario, he was of the view, “As far as this year’s monsoon reports are concerned, we have news that planting for the kharif crop has been completed all over India and the bumper harvest should bring down the prices, bringing down inflation with it. However, what remains to be seen is who will benefit – the farmers or the consumers?”

The discussion was moderated by  G. Chandrashekhar, Chairman, IMC’s Agri-Business & Food Processing Committee and Editor, (Commodities & Agri-Business) The Hindu Business Line, who set the ball rolling in his opening remarks as he said, “Agriculture as a sector is critical for growth with equity and inclusiveness because 52% of the population is engaged in agriculture but its contribution to the GDP is just 17% among industries. The South West monsoon is a critical driver of farm output growth and this year’s all India weighted rainfall average is 16% above normal as on July 17, 2013. Out of 625 districts, 462 are showing excess to normal rains. The live storage in reservoirs is 149% of normal.”

Seeking corporate sector participation in agriculture, Dr. S. K. Goel, Additional Chief Secretary, Agriculture Department, Government of Maharashtra, said, “I love coming to the IMC with the hope that someday the corporate sector will fall in love with agriculture and explore the untapped potential of this sector, which engages 120 million households across the country. The agriculture business makes great business sense. Is any challenge more exciting than connecting these 120 million households to the other 120 million in urban and semi urban centres? China has accepted this challenge and is making rapid progress. We at the government level, are open to corporate participation and will welcome and encourage such an initiative.”

Representing the online multi commodity exchange NCDEX,  Samir Shah, MD, NCDEX, said, “The onset of the good monsoon this year has seen better utilization of our market infrastructure, which in turn is a reflection of good and positive activity in agriculture. Warehouses are booked to capacity, in anticipation of a good crop and bumper harvest. Farmers’ desire to participate in the whole value chain is also increasing and we foresee a healthy production to consumption ratio, with the farmers getting a better price for their produce.”

While  Madan Sabnavis, Chief Economist, CARE Ratings, argued saying, “Agriculture is the only silver lining in the Indian industry and it is going to play a major role in driving growth. We need to commercialise agriculture in order to move forward. But the scenario is fraught with politics at the state and centre.
Corporates are wary of investing due to the rampant politics prevalent in agricultural belts.” Commenting on the hopes of a fall in inflation figures, he was doubtful as he said, “Food inflation and prices will continue to be under pressure due to the high crude imports and prices, the depreciation of the rupee and other external factors.”

Earlier while welcoming the august gathering,  Shailesh Vaidya, President, IMC, said, “Agriculture is a crucial sector if we are to achieve the goal of Sustainable Development. The erratic monsoon patterns and climatic changes being witnessed all over the globe in the past few years has prompted agriculture and farming sectors to wake up and analyze methods to work around these developments for sustained agricultural growth.”

The compact but erudite gatherings made some interesting observations. Acknowledging the same,  Tanil Kilachand, Co-Chairman IMC EFTF (Economic Research & Training Foundation),said, “The discussion has thrown up some amazing insights, thoughts and leads and we at IMC will draw from them and take it further on our path of `Sustainable Development’."

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