Nagpur: President Pranab Mukherjee Sunday called for institutional changes in agricultural marketing to bridge the gap between wholesale and retail markets to arrest food inflation.

“In a scenario of growing grain stocks and increasing production of high-value commodities, it is ironical for food inflation to continue for long periods. Loopholes have to be identified to streamline the supply chains and bridge the gap between wholesale and retail markets,” he observed.

Mukherjee was speaking at the inauguration of India’s biggest-ever agricultural fair, the National Agricultural Expo — “Krishi Vasant” — here Sunday afternoon.

He noted that in the past 10 years, the country has made tremendous progress in agriculture and now it has the capacity to export foodgrain.

He emphasised that improving farmers’ access to markets is critical to reduce farm wastage, control inflation and increase incomes.

The president expressed happiness that the union ministry of agriculture has declared 2014 as “Year of the Farmer Producer Organisation” to enable farmers achieve economies of scale, with public-private-partnerships (PPP) helping bridge the infrastructure gap in the post-harvest food domain.

Stressing the need to encourage greater investment by organised logistics players, processors and retailers for developing markets under the PPP mode, Mukherjee said it would ensure better returns for the farmers as well as the industry.

The multiple strategies have helped generate sufficient surplus to meet the commitment made to over two-thirds of the countrymen under the National Food Security Act and cater to the changing needs of the rapidly growing middle-income population, he said.

Speaking on the occasion, union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said the country is likely to harvest a record 263.2 million tonnes foodgrain this year.

This would be four million tonnes more than the record 259 million tonnes achieved two years ago, he said.

Pawar said the country is now the top exporter of rice and second top exporter of wheat and cotton in the world, besides leading in milk and horticultural crops.

The five-day-long “Krishi Vasant”, a joint initiative of the agriculture ministry, the Maharashtra government and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), will attract over half a million farmers from all over India, while another five million will view it through live webcasts.

The exhibits include farm machinery, new crop and animal varieties and breeds, advances in farm research, best practices for application of inputs like fertilisers and seeds, and over 300 live demonstrations.

A stall put up by 92 successful farmers is catching the eyeballs, which prompted Pawar to urge other farmers to emulate their feats and improve their farm output and prosper.

Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan, state Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, union Industry Minister Praful Patel, state Agriculture Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil along with his counterparts from other states, farmers, scientists and industry representatives were also present.

The event coincides with the birth centenary celebrations of late Vasantrao Naik, Maharashtra’s longest-serving chief minister, who steered agricultural development during the green revolution era, and also showcases the century-old history of agricultural research by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

Source: IANS