Midday meal scheme should include processed food: Sahay

June 9th, 2009 - 7:54 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 9 (IANS) The midday meal scheme for primary students of government schools may soon include a processed food item if a proposal for this is approved, Minister for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahay said Tuesday.
“If the promise of quality and nutrition is to be kept, then a packaged food item must be bundled with the midday meal,” Sahay told reporters on the sidelines of a conference at the PHD Chamber of Commerce and industry here Tuesday.

“I’ll talk to the other ministries concerned and hopefully, something will be worked out,” the minister said.

The proposal for including a processed food item in the midday scheme, first mooted by former Women and Child Welfare Minister Renuka Chowdhury, has been opposed by the human resource development ministry, under which education falls.

Earlier, during an interactive session with industry, Sahay described the food processing sector as “a hub of opportunities”, adding that the industry ought to be treated on par with the infrastructure sector.

Additionally, he said, his ministry was progressing with infrastructure plans for 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.”

The minister also referred to agriculture, saying it was incomplete without post-harvest management. “This sector is important for economic growth. Agriculture cannot be complete without post-harvest management.”

Stressing on the importance of the sector, he said: “In the US, only 4 percent of the population is involved in agriculture and they claim to be feeding the world. In Europe it is 7 percent. Here, 70 percent of the population is involved in agriculture.”

According to Sahay, the problem lay in the fragmented nature of the Indian agriculture sector.

“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 industrialisation of agricultural produce.”

Sahay also said he would push for an eight-year tax holiday for food processing units in the coming budget.

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