India can be leader of global food processing industry: PM (Lead)

October 6th, 2009 - 2:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Oct 6 (IANS) Calling for the formulation of a new National Food Processing Policy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday said India had the potential to emerge as a leader in the global food processing industry.
“The food processing sector has the potential to be an industry driver that can transform the rural economy,” Manmohan Singh said while inaugurating the 1st Conference of State Ministers for Food Processing Industries, organised by the ministry of food processing industries (MoFPI).

“I recognise that there are a number of constraints both in the forward and backward linkages in the sector. But if we can get our act together, India can emerge as a leader in the global food processing industry,” he added.

The prime minister lamented the low processing levels in India despite the country being a major food producer.

“India ranks first in production of milk, pulses and tea and second in production of fruits and vegetables in the world. Despite being a major food producer, India’s share in the world food trade is less than two percent.

“The level of processing in India is abysmally low at six percent compared to 60-80 percent in developed countries and over 30 percent even in most other Asian and Latin American countries,” Manmohan Singh said.

This, he pointed out, clearly showed that there was very high wastage and very low value addition in the country with corresponding loss of business opportunities and farm income.

He, however, saw hope in the fact that most of India’s large industrial houses have a growing presence in the food processing sector.

“I would like the Indian industry to think big and to think globally. There is no reason why they should not emerge as global brand names just as in our IT industry.”

He also called for the formulation of a new National Food Processing Policy, as is being conceptualised by MoFPI, which, he said, would spell out the vision of the government for the rapid growth of the sector.

“The policy to be effective will have to be comprehensive and adopt a number of legislative, administrative and promotional measures,” Manmohan Singh said.

“The policy should evolve through discussions with states and industry. It should promote the development of viable agri-business and agro-industry models based on different agro-climates and regions. It should look at institutional strengthening and capacity building across the value chain.”

According to the prime minister, the policy should seek to promote innovation and technological innovation.

“Improved technologies to promote the shelf life of vegetables and fruits, better packaging machinery and cold storage systems are just some of the areas where more work is required,” he said, adding that the Central Food Technology and Research Institute should play a more central and pro-active role in this regard.

Earlier, welcoming the delegates, Minister for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahai recalled that the ministry was created in 1988 based on the vision of late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

“During Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure as finance minister of the country, strong thrust was given to this sector,” he said.

“The food processing sector is the bridge between the two pillars of our economy - industry and agriculture - and is very close to the heart of our prime minister,” he added.

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