Food processing sector’s growth to touch 20 percent in 100 days: Sahay

May 29th, 2009 - 5:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) The growth rate of India’s food processing sector will be brought up to a minimum of 20 percent from the current 14 percent within 100 days of the new United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government taking charge, according to Minister for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahay.
“When (India’s) overall growth was at 5-6 percent, this ministry’s growth was at 14 percent. And within 100 days, we will give you a growth rate of a minimum 20 percent,” Sahay, who retained the portfolio after being elevated to cabinet rank, told reporters after assuming office here Friday.

“With my elevation, the ministry also got elevated, which is a good development,” he stated.

Sahay was minister of state (independent charge) for food processing industries in the last UPA government. He retained the Ranchi seat in the Lok Sabha elections, besting g his nearest rival Ram Tahal Choudhury of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by 13,350 votes.

By retaining the portfolio, there would be continuity in implementing the work charted out by the ministry during the previous government, Sahay maintained.

“We will continue our work to meet the target we had set to attract investment of Rs 1 lakh crore (Rs.1,000 billion/$21 billion) in the food processing sector by 2015,” the minister said, adding that this was the only sector where people did not lose jobs in the midst of the global financial crisis.

Pointing out that agriculture remained incomplete without post-harvest management, Sahay said that this was why Rajiv Gandhi created the food processing ministry when he was the prime minister 1984-89.

“Agriculture has grown in many parts of the world. In the US, only four percent of the population is involved in agriculture and they claim to be feeding the world. In Europe it is seven percent. Here, 70 percent of the population (is involved in agriculture),” Sahay said.

“But agriculture in India remains fragmented. It is not clustered. It will be clustered only when there is market-driven farming. And market-driven farming will happen only when there is industrialization of agricultural produce.”

He said his ministry was progressing with infrastructure plans for streamlining the sector.

“Some (infrastructure projects) have to be launched, and for some, a roadmap has to be created. We also have to look at government policies that are investor-friendly. It is all about industrialisation of the rural sector,” he said.

According to the India Food Report 2008 prepared by leading markets’ data provider Research and Markets, the Indian food industry was estimated at over $182 billion, accounting for about two-thirds of the country’s total retail sector.

But India’s share in exports of processed food in the global market is just 1.5 percent at $3.2 billion.

“Whereas in other parts of the world, the growth levels are at 70-80 percent, ours has reached 10 percent in processing levels. Though the sector’s growth is at 14 percent, the growth in the processing level is at 10 percent only,” Sahay explained.

Stating that the missing links in this sector are the supply chain and the cold chain since the items involved are perishable and have a low shelf life, he said: “We need to do more work on this. Our target will be to take this sector on the growth path on the lines of the IT sector.”

Sahay exuded an optimistic air, saying that the food processing sector would be in the drivers seat of the Indian economy and would contribute significantly to the country’s GDP.

“I am happy that many people wanted this ministry but the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) gave it to me,” he said.

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