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New Delhi, March 20

THE Government should consider all value-added agri-processing as agriculture and provide benefits such as zero taxation, zero VAT, zero octroi and zero excise in order to help realise the country's potential in the area, according to the Confederation of Indian Industry.It is imperative to encourage a united contract farming policy in all States with the full support of the State Governments. It is also important for agricultural universities across India to pay more attention to processing grade produce over table products, according to a study prepared by the CII.

"Value-added agriculture could change the face of rural India, just the way IT, BPO, BT (biotech) has done for urban India," it said, adding that promotion of value-added agriculture would stop migration to cities and reduce farmers' woes.

It would also give the farmer access to technology and funds through contract farming.

The study has called for initiating land reforms to permit `corporate farming' test farms, specialised agri-products and highly mechanised farming.

According to the CII, it is important to develop common Indian brands for agri-exports with high-profile marketing campaigns in all developed countries including value-added agriculture and festivals to promote Indian food.

The study has suggested that the Government formulate an integrated food law, which would recognise the genuine concerns of food processors.

The food law should be in line with the international legislation, especially in South East Asian countries.

The food-processing sector in the country has grown impressively, with the total turnover amounting to Rs 2,50,000 crore approximately. Value-addition of the sector is about Rs 80,000 crore across all food segments, said the CII.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 21, 2005)
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