WalMart to buy farm produce directly, wants retail norms eased

October 26th, 2010 - 5:51 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 26 (IANS) WalMart president Mike Duke Tuesday said his firm’s India joint venture will purchase agricultural produce directly from 45,000 small and medium farmers and hoped for easing of foreign equity norms in the multi-brand retail industry.

Under the company’s direct farm programme in India, in a joint venture with the telecom-to-retail major Bharti Group, WalMart hoped to bring best farm management practices and train small and medium farmers to grow more with less water and pesticides, he said.

“I am confident these initiatives would result in a 20 percent increase in the income of farmers and would have a multiplier effect to benefit one million farmers and workers associated with agriculture,” Duke told a business meeting here.

Two such training programmes were running successfully in the national capital as well as Punjab and the third will be launched in Bangalore, he told the meeting organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

The training centres in Delhi and Punjab, in association with their respective governments, had resulted in skills development and certification of 34,000 people and direct placement of 1,100 people.

Duke, here to meet with top officials in the government and corporate sector, said India must consider foreign equity in multi-brand retail sector, which, at present, is banned. India only allows up to 51 percent foreign equity in single brand retailing.

“This is important so that we can contribute much more by way of infusion of capital, accelerate the opening of more retail stores and bring in overall efficiency in supply chain management,” Duke said.

“I believe that retail foreign investment will go a long way in reducing food inflation in India by 50-70 basis points — by reducing waste and improving efficiency of the business model through supply chain management,” he said.

“We do understand the Indian government’s calibrated approach in retail,” he said, and added that other benefits of opening up retail sector were investments for sustainable food supply chain, opportunities for small firms and exports.

Food Processing Minister Subodh Kant Sahai, who also addressed the meeting, asked industry to set up a parallel agriculture and food processing units by investing 5 percent of the turnover in the business.

“This would encourage the corporates to help the farmers increase their yields and take to market-driven farming practices,” Sahay said.

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