Government plans to launch 350 food processing units

July 1st, 2009 - 7:20 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 1 (IANS) The government will help set up 350 new food processing units in the next 100 days as part of its efforts to create 10 million jobs in the sector by 2015.
“We will extend financial help of up to 25 percent or a maximum of Rs.50 lakh (Rs.5 million) in setting up each of these units,” Minister for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahai said here Wednesday while releasing his ministry’s 100-day action plan.

These 350 processing units will be in the fields of fruit and vegetable, meat, dairy, fish, grain and consumer food industry.

The minister explained that for every Rs.1 crore invested in the sector, 18 direct and 64 indirect jobs in the organised sector and 20 in the unorganised sector would be created.

“After the Green Revolution, we are now ushering in the evergreen revolution in the country,” Sahai said, adding: “Processing is an evergreen activity. It’s the key to the agricultural sector,” he added.

Listing out the areas of priority, the minister said: “There is an immediate need for at least one lakh (100,000) trained personnel in this sector.”

As part of the action plan, the ministry would also prepare a blueprint for training one million skilled workers and 500,000 women entrepreneurs in the sector within the next five years.

The first phase of the National Institute of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management (Niftem) will be inaugurated at Kundli, Haryana, in the next 100 days.

Another area of focus will be developing infrastructure for the sector.

The ministry will commission within the next 100 days two integrated cold chain projects and the first processing unit in the country’s first mega food park, the Patanjali Food and Herbal Park, near Haridwar in Uttarakhand, he said.

Ten such mega food parks are scheduled to come up in the next two years in different parts of the country.

Sahai said his ministry would seek more steps from the government like tax holiday for all food processing units and further lowering of customs, excise and value added tax (VAT) on food products, raw materials, machinery and packaging used by the industry.

“We are asking for a VAT of zero to 4 percent instead of the current 20 percent. At 20 percent, VAT is a crime against farmers,” he said.

The food processing ministry is also working towards setting up a venture capital fund for the sector in partnership with the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development, the Industrial Development Bank of India, the Small Industries Development Bank of India and other private banks.

Among other areas of focus of the action plan are setting an agenda for research and development in the sector, launching a nationwide campaign to address safety and quality issues and improving competitiveness in the unorganised sector and small and medium enterprises.

Sahai said his ministry intended to meet the targets set by the previous United Progressive Alliance government in its Vision 2015 plan.

These included increasing the level of food processing from 6 percent in 2004 to 20 percent in 2015, value addition from 20 percent in 2004 to 35 percent and India’s share in the global food trade from 1.5 percent to 3 percent.

“The level of processing has already gone up to 10 percent and value addition to 26 percent from 20 percent earlier. The entire sector’s growth rate has gone up to over 13 percent from about 7 percent before 2005,” Sahai said.

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