With over 65 percent of the country’s population engaged in farming and related occupations, India should have been the world’s largest agriculture and processed foods economy. Seven decades later, 40 percent of the horticulture produce of rural India rots before it can get to urban markets, inflicting an annual loss of Rs.60,000 crore on India’s farmers.
In the mid-1980s, the US-based multinational Pepsico Inc applied for a licence to invest and do business in India. Inevitably, this aroused fierce opposition within the media dominated by trendy leftists and jholawalas. As editor of Businessworld at that time, your correspondent travelled to Purchase, New York to investigate Pepsico. A cover story for Businessworld, revealed that although better known as a cola company, Pepsi was in fact a billion dollar food processing corporation which had developed advanced technologies to grow and process high quality tomatoes and potatoes. Soon Pepsico was given permission to do business in India and in a quiet and unsung manner, it has benefitted tens of thousands of tomato and potato farmers in Punjab and Gujarat, by providing them high-quality patented seeds which produce globally accepted tomato ketchup, puree and potato chips marketed under the brand name Lays.
Recently, Pepsico India filed a case in court against several of its client farmers in Gujarat for selling potatoes grown from Pepsico’s patented seeds to rival packaged potato chips manufacturers, in violation of their contracts with the company. This prompted Pepsico to sue nine Gujarat-based farmers for patent infringement. Predictably, the left-dominated media to whom multinationals are evil per se, has projected this confrontation as a David vs. Goliath story and the BJP government of Gujarat has persuaded the company to withdraw its cases.
This is typical of the neta-babu establishment. They invite foreign investment into the country with honeyed smiles and the red carpet. But after they set up shop in India, the brotherhood dumps socialism on them. Little wonder that foreign investment inflows are drying up. Word gets around.