It is imperative to usher in Next Generation Agriculture, says ITC Chairman Sanjiv Puri

In his AGM address Mr. Sanjiv Puri, Chairman and Managing Director, ITC Ltd, shared his Vision on ‘ITC Next: Building a Competitive, Future Tech, Climate Positive and Inclusive Enterprise’. Relevant Excerpts from the speech is below:

Agriculture is the lifeline of the Indian economy. Although nearly half of the country’s workforce is dependent on this sector, it contributes to less than 19% of the country’s GVA, reflecting the challenges of low productivity, investments and incomes. Even though India is blessed with strong endowments in agriculture, its share of global trade is only 3%, whilst less than 10% of the country’s agri produce is processed. Agricultural productivity and incomes are today seriously threatened by climate change and depleting natural resources, even as the rising population calls for enhanced food and livelihood security.

Global food demand is expected to increase anywhere between 59% to 98% by 2050 according to an article in the Harvard Business Review. A report by the HLEG set up by the 15th Finance Commission has highlighted that India’s agri-food exports can double over the medium term, given that the country possesses the largest tracts of arable land in the world as well as diverse agro-climatic zones. Strategic partnerships developed along the lines of the ‘Food Security Corridor Initiative’ signed as part of the India-UAE CEPA can go a long way in promoting India’s potential. Undoubtedly, this will call for higher levels of production, building of competitive agri value-chains, crop diversification to value-added products and scaling up of food processing to serve emerging consumer needs for products that are sustainable and identity preserved particularly in the health, nutrition and organic space.

To power next generation agriculture, ITC has launched ITCMAARS, an acronym for Meta Market for Advanced Agricultural Rural Services, as a crop agnostic integrated ‘phygital’ eco-system, which is embedded with a full stack AgriTech platform with FPOs as the pivot. This platform provides farmers with AI/ML driven personalised and hyperlocal crop advisories, access to good quality inputs and market linkages as well as allied services like pre-approved loans. It also offers advanced technologies like real-time soil testing, quality assaying and precision farming at the doorstep of farmers. ITCMAARS has now been launched in 7 States with 40,000+ farmers grouped in 200+ FPOs and will be progressively scaled up across the country. Given the size of the agri and allied sectors, ITCMAARS has the potential to become a considerable segment of ITC’s Agri Business besides strengthening its agri-sourcing expertise over time. This defining initiative will make a substantial contribution to the national priorities of multiplying farmers’ income and enhancing livelihood opportunities.

In the year gone by, ITC’s Agri Business demonstrated stellar performance with strong export growth in wheat, rice, spices and leaf tobacco. The investments made over the years in ensuring high quality and superior sustainability performance also aided robust exports of leaf tobacco. Segment Revenue increased by nearly 29% and Segment Results by around 26%. The superior sourcing expertise of the Business continues to create sustainable competitive advantage for ITC’s FMCG portfolio. Going forward, the strategic focus on value-added crops, ITCMAARS and climate smart agriculture will drive new vectors to sustain growth and profitability in this area of national priority

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