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Pawar launches agri-business forum


Our Bureau

NEW DELHI, July 23

A CHAMBER of Commerce set up exclusively to lobby for the domestic agri-business industry? Well, if Mr Sharad Pawar were to have his way, this is precisely the role that his Centre for International Trade in Agriculture and Agro-based Industries (CITA) w ould be performing.

The Maratha strongman is the brain behind the formation of the Centre, which seeks to ``keep the farming community, its associations and agro-based industries informed about the latest developments and trends in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime and obtain their feedback'' and, more importantly, ``to liaison with the Government and other policymaking bodies in respect of agricultural policies and programmes with reference to WTO developments''.

Those enlisted by Mr Pawar in CITA's Governing Council represent a virtual Who's Who of Indian agri-business. These include the Chairman of United Breweries, Mr Vijay Mallya, the Chairperson of Venkateshwara Hatcheries, Ms Anuradha Desai, the Chairman an d Managing Director of the Baramati-based Dynamix Dairy Industries Ltd, Mr K.M. Goenka, the Director-General of the Indian Sugar Mills Association, Mr S.L. Jain, the President of the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories (NFCSF), Mr M.R. Des ai, and the Chairman of the Pune-based Grape Growers Federation of India, Mr Sopan S. Kanchan.

Besides, there are also prominent farm and cooperative leaders such as the former Finance Minister of Gujarat, Mr Sanat Mehta, and former Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Mr Mohan Dharia. The only big name perhaps missing as of now is the `Da iryman from Anand', Dr Verghese Kurien. Mr Pawar, however, maintained that ``we are touch with people in Amul and they too will join us very soon''.

A key function of CITA, would to build up a comprehensive, real-time information data base on the agri sector, ``which will be required for our various programmes and proposals to the Government of India, to the WTO Secretariat and various other policyma king bodies'', Mr Pawar told reporters on Monday.

``Initially, we will monitor some crucial sectors like sugar and sugarcane, milk and milk products, poultry and poultry products, wheat, rice and pulses, cotton, fruits & vegetables, floriculture, oilseeds and edible oils, spices and tea, sericulture and alcoholic beverages,'' he said.

CITA's primary focus, however, would be to protect `national agriculture interests' through exploring both tariff as well as non-tariff options for checking unabated imports, augmenting scope for Governmental support within the provisions of the WTO regi me and providing inputs to Government for domestic policy formulation as well as for undertaking multilateral negotiations. ``Unlike other countries, which involve their farmers and agri-industry in international negotiations, we tend to leave everything to bureaucrats and others who have no stake in this sector,'' Mr Pawar pointed out.

CITA would also aim at reconciling the diverse, often conflicting, interests of various stakeholders within the sector. ``This is a sector, where the output of one, say maize, tends to be the input for some other, such as poultry. What we need is to evol ve a market-oriented strategy for agriculture that would ultimately benefit all stakeholders and protect the country's overall economic interest under the WTO regime,'' Mr Pawar added.

Pic.: Mr Sharad Pawar at the launch of the Centre for International Trade in Agriculture and Agro-based industries, flanked by senior leaders in the cooperative sector, Mr Sanat Mehta (left) and Mr Shivajirao Patil.

Picture by Kamal Narang

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