India should open retail to spur ‘Ever-Green Revolution’: US biz

November 3rd, 2010 - 11:48 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, Nov 2 (IANS) Ahead of US President Barack Obama’s trip, a major US trade association suggested action in three key areas, including opening of India’s retail industry to foreign direct investment to help India usher in an “Ever-Green Revolution”.

The US-India Business Council (USIBC), representing 300 top US companies doing business with India, has also suggested lowering US and Indian tariff and non-tariff barriers for agricultural commodities and adoption US best practices in water utilisation and crop management.

Asking India to open its retail industry to foreign direct investment, the group says: “Doing so would bring efficiency, infrastructure, technology and know-how to Indian farmers, food processors, food service providers and other suppliers.”

“The direct connection between farmers and markets will minimise costs to consumers and reduce pressures on food prices as wasteful intermediaries are removed from the supply chain,” it argues suggesting big multinational retailers have the expertise India needs in reforming its farm-to-market processes.

“No sector of the Indian economy is more important to the people of India than agriculture,” says the trade group, which is organising an executive summit in Mumbai Nov 6 featuring a speech by Obama.

Noting that the US was instrumental in bringing about the Green Revolution in India in the 1960s, where high-yielding seeds and fertilisers helped India achieve self-sufficiency in food, USIBC now sees scope for an “Ever-Green Revolution.”

Adoption of US best practices in water utilisation and crop management could propel India further to promote greater food security by addressing problems that lead 40 percent of the country’s food harvest to spoil before reaching market, it said.

Asking the US and India to agree to back up their joint agriculture dialogue with both resources and solid deliverables, USIBC suggests lowering US and Indian tariff and non-tariff barriers which are affecting trade in fresh fruits and vegetables, poultry, pistachios, dairy products, and horticultural products.

It also sought reduced customs duties on items such as processing equipment, restaurant equipment, and related goods saying, “reductions in tariffs on processed goods will allow businesses to test product markets so as to properly invest in manufacturing and production facilities in the future, as well.”

US companies should also be encouraged to showcase in India their own success stories of business sector intervention in agriculture and food processing, it said to raise awareness about how ‘best practices’ and technologies can deliver greater efficiencies.

“The result can be the ‘Ever-Green Revolution’-a noble objective important to all,” USIBC said.

India and the US agreed to set up an Agriculture Dialogue during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s state visit to the US in November 2009. The inaugural dialogue was held in New Delhi last September.

Under the dialogue the two sides have set up three working groups for strategic cooperation in Agriculture and Food Security; Food Processing, Agricultural Extension, Farm-to-Market linkages; and Weather and Crop forecasting.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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