India Insight

Will rotting foodgrain bring about a retail revolution?

Pictures of grain rotting in the rain in Punjab have shocked a country reeling under high food price inflation and where hundreds of thousands go to bed every night on an empty stomach.

A labourer carries a plastic sheet to cover wheat sacks at a wholesale grain market in Chandigarh May 18, 2010. REUTERS/Ajay Verma/FilesThe estimates vary from 1.2 million metric tonnes of rice and wheat wasting in Punjab alone, and as much as 18 million metric tonnes of food grain lying in the open across the country because of inadequate storage facilities, translating into losses of about 270 billion rupees ($6 billion).

But this is not a new problem. India has prided itself on increasing agricultural productivity, but it has not invested adequately in storage and warehousing facilities, condemning some 40 percent of produce that the country can ill-afford to waste to the trash can.

A CRISIL Research study estimates allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail could cut wastage of about 630 billion rupees in fruit and vegetable wastage alone every year, or about 30 percent of total output.

Foreign retailers including Wal-Mart, who have campaigned for opening up the tightly controlled sector, say foreign investment is key to minimising wastage and lowering prices to consumers.

Are we ready for genetically modified vegetables?

You may soon find India’s first genetically modified vegetable, Bt brinjal, making its way to your vegetable market.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, which is responsible for approval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered products, on Wednesday approved the environmental release of the vegetable but it still has to get a nod from the central government.

Many in India are concerned over the harmful effects of the vegetable and question the need for a genetically modified vegetable.

from Global Investing:

Another nail in the Malthusian coffin?

All the talk of addressing the global imbalances throws a spotlight on contrasting demographic trends in the world's two most populous nations -- China and India.

Prior to the financial crisis, India's annual growth rate of about 9 percent seemed positively moribund next to China's double-digit economic expansion. But purely on demographics, the dimming power of the US consumer could give India an edge over its neighbour in the longer run.

That's what India's trade minister Anand Sharma seemed to suggest last week when he reminded the audience at a London conference that the country had "20 percent of the world's children":

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