Even as corporate companies sought government assistance to boost the retail sector, especially in regard to supply chain, Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh sounded an assuring note, though with a rider: “Those in the retailing sector should do something for the poor and downtrodden of the society. You, too, must safeguard the interests of the farmers and the poor people.”
Delivering the valedictory address at the conclusion of the two-day session on “Winning with Intelligent Supply Chains,” organised by FICCI in New Delhi, the minister said, “We (the UPA government) are ready for public-private participation in the nation’s economic development, but you cannot ignore the interests of the poor farmers, artisans and other sections of society who are not economically well off.”
Singh suggested that retailers help farmers by giving them good remunerative prices for their products as they were not getting the due share for their products. He asked the corporate sector to help in the marketing of rural products of artisans so that these goods find their rightful place in the market.
Earlier, top retail and corporate honchos including Sanjeev Asthana, president and chief executive of Agri Business, Reliance Retail; Vikram Bakshi, managing director, McDonald’s; RC Agrawal, chairman, Vishal Megamart Ltd; Arvind Singhal, chairman, Technopak Advisors Pvt. Ltd; and Ravi Mathur, CEO, GS1, said there was need for greater encouragement for the supply chain since the “existing facilities were not enough.”
They felt that unless infrastructure facilities like good roads and rail freight with proper cold storage facilities was given, it would not be possible to give consumers farm-fresh products.
As Bakshi said, “There has been no improvement on the ground in regard to cold chain. We (McDonald’s) had to develop our own cold chain network so that the consumers got farm-fresh products within an hour-and-a-half from the field. We had to make huge investments for this purpose.”
Agrawal of Vishal Megamart made a strong plea for corporatising agriculture and allowing private parties to construct roads. He also suggested that the government implement general sales tax and have single window clearance for all projects.
“Unless these measures are taken, there would be no progress on the economic front. There is an urgent need for public-private participation to take the country forward,” Agrawal said.
Speaking on the occasion, Rajan Bharti Mittal, chairman, FICCI Retail Committee, and managing director, Bharti Enterprises, said, “If India and the Indian farmers have to be part of the world economy, there should be development of infrastructure as this would help in the development of supply chain network, which is imperative for enabling supply of fresh fruits and vegetables to the retailers.”
– Sri Krishna