Modi invites global investors for contract farming in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday gave a further push to the `Ease of Doing Business' in India by opening up the country's vast arable land for exploitation by contract farming multinationals for sourcing food for global market chains.

Inaugurating World Food India, a global event organised by the ministry of food processing industries, in partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry, the prime minister called upon global supermarket chains to take advantage of the ''great opportunity'' that awaits them ''as doing business in India had become easier than ever before''.

India, with the world's second-largest arable land area and 127 diverse agro-climatic zones offers vast scope for private investments in contract farming and sourcing of raw materials, the prime minister told global investors.

India, Modi said, has global leadership in a number of crops like bananas, mangoes, guavas, papayas, and okra. ''We are second, globally, in terms of production of rice, wheat, fish, fruits and vegetables. India is also the world's biggest milk producer. Our horticulture sector has shown an average growth rate of 5.5 per cent annually over the last ten years,'' he pointed out.

''Food processing is a way of life in India. It has been practiced for ages, even in the humblest of households. Simple, home-based techniques, such as fermentation, have resulted in the creation of our famous pickles, papads, chutneys and murabbas that now excite both the elite and the masses, across the world.''

''Private sector participation has been increasing in many segments of the value chain. However, more investment is required in contract farming, raw material sourcing and to create agri linkages. Many international companies in India have taken a lead in contract farming initiatives. This is a clear opportunity for global supermarket chains to consider India as a major outsourcing hub,'' he said.

Modi also repeated his suggestion that aerated drink majors blend 5 per cent of fruit juice in their products to make these products appealing to the Indian public.

''In order to be successful in Indian markets, understanding Indian food habits and tastes is a key requirement,'' he said, citing milk-based products and fruit juice-based drinks that are an ''intrinsic part of Indian food habits''.

Urging food majors to also tap the vast scope that the Indian Railways offers, the prime minister said that ''over a million passengers have a meal on a train in India'', every day.

Emphasising the importance of food-processing in ''nutrition security'', the prime minister said that apart from post-harvest management, ''there is immense potential in niche areas such as organic and fortified foods'', and suggested linking these with traditional foods such as coarse grains and millets, terming them ''nutrition-rich and climate-smart'' crops.

''The perfect blend of hygienic, nutritious and tasty processed food, with the added benefits of preventive healthcare, can be produced economically here in India,'' he said.

Boosting farm incomes
Modi said farmers are ''central to our efforts in food processing'', adding that to achieve the doubling of farm income within five years, the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana must ''leverage investments of $5 billion, benefit two million farmers and generate more than half-a-million jobs over the next three years''.

Minister for food processing industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal said the three-day mega event is likely to see the signing of MoUs worth $11 billion.

World Food India is being attended by around 2,000 people, over 200 companies from 30 countries, 18 ministerial and business delegations, nearly 50 global CEOs of companies such as Nestle, Unilever, Metro Cash & Carry, along with 100 CEOs of domestic food-processing firms and representatives of 28 states.

(Also see: World Food India attracts Rs68,000-cr investment proposals)