France to help India boost food processing sector

October 26th, 2009 - 7:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Oct 26 (IANS) France can help India develop its food processing sector by offering its expertise and technology in the area, according to France’s Minister for Foreign Trade Anne-Marie Idrac.
“The agro-food sector in India shows a huge potential that is yet to be tapped,” Idrac said while speaking at an interactive session on Indo-French cooperation in agriculture and food processing, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here Monday.

“So far, only 3 percent of the overall agricultural production (in India) is being processed; 35 percent in the dairy sector. In France, 70 percent of our agricultural output is processed into value-added products,” she said.

Noting that the food processing sector in India was facing various bottlenecks like lack of infrastructure, packaging and grading centres, and quality control and testing facilities, the French minister stated: “We have been through all that in France. Our companies’ experience and expertise can probably help you.”

Idrac, who is currently leading a delegation of French agro-industry companies in India, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and French President Nicolas Sarkozy had identified agro-food as one of the industries in which cooperation must be encouraged.

“An Indo-French joint working group (JWG) on agriculture has been set up in order to promote cooperation between our two countries,” she said.

The French minister also emphasised the need for benchmarking food quality and safety standards, particularly when catering to urban consumers.

“The ’safe food, tasty food’ project is important with the Commonwealth Games coming to Delhi in 2010,” she said.

She highlighted five areas in which the visiting French delegation and the Indian counterparts can work on.

Business models for dairy and poultry industries; interface with public and private agencies on policy framework; dialogue on standards and guidelines for quality, safety and traceability; study of cycle from crops and cattle to processed food and consumer market; and links between research development institutes in the two countries are the five areas.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahai said while India had the potential, France could help tap it.

“We have the raw material, you have the technology. India is in the middle of two big markets - the Middle East and the Far East - and we can help French companies reach out to these markets,” he said.

He also called for the setting up of a joint quality control laboratory by India and France to remove hindrances on exports of Indian food products to the European market.

Inviting French investors, Sahai said: “You will not only earn money by investing in the food processing sector in India but also help our farmers who form 70 percent of our population of 1.2 billion.”

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