In what could be seen as indication to revive the Cabinet decision on foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, has again asked the States to amend the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act (APMC). Such an amendment would result in free movement of agriculture produce through the country.

Addressing a Conference of Chief Secretaries of States, Dr Singh said, “There is a need to review and amend the Agriculture Produce Marketing Act to enable farmers to bring their products to retail outlets and also allow retailers to directly purchase from the farmers. This would bring better remuneration to farmers, check wastage and allow competitive prices to prevail in retail markets.”

In November, the Cabinet approved FDI up to 51 per cent in multi-brand retail trade. But political opposition forced the Government to keep the decision in abeyance. However, the Government has been discussing this issue with various stakeholders to address their concerns before it makes an effort to revive the decision.

The Government feels that the existing framework of agriculture market restricts a farmer’s choice and increases his costs, while not providing him adequate benefits. Such a situation necessitates a mechanism which would help the farmers have access to multiple and competitive agriculture markets and this could be done with a change in the APMC Act.

Food Security

Meanwhile, the PM has urged the State Governments to reform the Public Distribution System for effective implementation of the Food Security Bill. ”I would urge you to pay urgent attention to end-to-end computerisation of the Public Distribution System. We should be in a position to effectively implement the Food Security Bill by the time it is enacted as an Act of Parliament,” he added.

Economic Growth

In what could be viewed as a signal to the Reserve Bank of India to cut interest rate, he said, “monetary tightening together with a difficult global economic environment, particularly the lingering Euro Zone crisis, has impacted the rate of growth adversely,” he said. To curb inflation, the RBI hiked the policy interest rate 13 successive times in the last one year.

He also said that the latest data show that the economy grew at 8.4 per cent in 2010-11. This was a creditable performance when seen in the background of a crisis-ridden world economy. But, growth in the current fiscal year is likely to be lower, between 7 and 7.5 per cent, in a large measure due to the continuing uncertainty in the global economic environment, he added.