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ITC chairman calls for policy impetus to transform agriculture

Given the tremendous potential of the food processing industry to transform the future of the agricultural sector and create jobs, it is critical that this sector is allowed to grow faster with strong policy impetus, felt Y C Deveshwar, Chairman of ITC.

The tax incidence on food processing must be viewed from the perspective that it adds tremendous value to farmers and helps in ameliorating huge agri-wastages. A conducive taxation regime for the processed food industry will be crucial to multiplying farmer and rural incomes, besides creating large-scale jobs at the intersection of agriculture and industry, he said while addressing company’s 106th Annual General Meeting.

India’s colossal agri-wastage is estimated at Rs.92,000 crore. A large part of this wastage is in perishables. The increasing consumer demand for fruits, vegetables and other perishables can benefit farmers, given the higher remuneration in these value-added categories.

In addition, a higher level of food processing in the economy can create a much larger pull for quality agri-commodities, thereby reducing farm wastages and raising farm incomes. This calls for investment in product-specific climate-controlled infrastructure as well as branded products that can win consumer franchise. In addition to crop expansion, diversification into off-farm activities such as animal husbandry and livestock can also supplement farmer incomes. Corporate participation is essential not only to invest in requisite infrastructure but also to provide assured and value-added markets to farmers.

Deveshwar felt that the corporate sector could add a unique dimension, given the power of private entrepreneurship, its capacity to innovate, its wide variety of skill sets as well as its ability to reach markets more efficiently. “A larger degree of corporate involvement in agriculture is also imperative given the changing context of the food and agricultural sector,” he added.

He said ITC has invested in a globally benchmarked Life Sciences & Technology Centre in Bengaluru. With 350 scientists, the Centre is helping shape a new future in agri-sciences and biosciences, contributing to value addition in the agricultural sector.

Highlighting company’s performance, he said ITC’s gross revenues crossed the Rs.55, 000 crore mark and profit Before Tax surpassed the Rs 15,000 crore level in 2016-17. The non-cigarette segments now account for 58 per cent of the net segment revenue, has grown 18-fold since 1996. Presently, the non-cigarette businesses deploy 77 per cent of company’s operating capital and 88 per cent of the employee base, reflecting the radically transformed character of ITC, he said.

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