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Food security & regulations discussed at 7th essay of Food World India
Tuesday, 24 September, 2013, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Abhitash Singh, Mumbai

The seventh edition of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry's (FICCI) Food World India seminar commenced on Monday at Mumbai's The Lalit. The theme of the seminar, which focussed on food security and regulations in the country, was 'Feeding a billion: The role of the food processing industry'.

A report on the same was released at the event by Krishna Byre Gowda, Karnataka's minister of agriculture and food processing; D K Samantaray, chief executive officer, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), and Siraj Hussain, secretary, ministry of food processing industries (MoFPI).

Addressing the stakeholders, Samantaray said, “When someone from the industry asked me what I know about oil, I answered that I know only about the oil I use for my car. Likewise, the only thing I know about food is the food I eat. And as FSSAI chief, my job is to ensure a better quality of food quality to the 120 billion people of India.”

“From morning to night, we have food, but do we eat the right food? That is an important question which has to be answered. In India, we face various kinds of troubles and problems as far as food as concerned. FSSAI has set a number of standards in order to provide better food to everyone in the country,” he added.

“But just two years have passed since the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2011, was implemented, and thus it will take a while for things to improve. It is mandatory to educate the consumers about the good and bad foods. FSSAI is doing this through the new regulations,” Samantray stated.

He added, “We would have to set up a recall system in India like the ones that exist in the United States and other countries. In the last 30-odd years of my career as a bureaucrat, I know just one thing – that we all eat food. About the food processing industry, one question which comes to my mind is, 'What role is the food processing industry playing in feeding 120 billion people?'”.

“One thing I would like to share with you is that Indians are do not prefer to eat raw foods, but they eat processed foods. The food cooked by our mothers no longer seems to be facilitating the growth of India. The rapid increase in the per capita income and urbanisation have made the Indians eat processed foods,” Samantray said.

FSSAI's chief said, “It is estimated that 500 million people eating processed foods in India. India's food processing sector is estimated to be worth $180 billion, of which the unorganised sector accounts for 40-45 per cent. The industry, which is growing by a whopping 20-25 per cent year annually, provides an opportunity to more than 6.5 million people.”

“Our exports have been increasing by approximately 27 per cent for the last four or five years. The major issue in our country is food security, and to overcome this, the food processing industry has a major role to play in ensuring more productivity,” he said.

Hussain said, “I am aware of the issues faced by the food processing industry. MoFPI is not only for the food processing industry per se, but we are here to address the concerns of the food processing industry as well. As far as grain storage is concerned, India has taken care of the storage – of the overall requirement of 15 million tonne, seven million tonne has been covered.”

“Although we had a lower procurement of grains this year, we would be able to meet the requirement because of the surplus production of the previous year. About 35 per cent of grains are procured by the government, 30 per cent by the farmers and the remainder is wasted,” he added.

Hussain said, “The ministry is concerned about the perishable losses, which range between six and 18 per cent, but the people do not believe it. We, along with the stakeholders and the industry, are trying to bring down the wastage. India is achieving the goals in commodities like grapes and apples – we exported grapes worth Rs 1,000 crore, the apple harvest was good, and we got a better supply chain.”

“MoFPI approved about 75 cold storage units to reduce the wastage. Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh are the top beneficiaries, having established 21 and 11 cold storage respectively. Grapes, apples and bananas showed progress, but the other commodities lagged behind. We would have to join hands with the industry for the growth of these commodities too,” he added.

“The Indian retail industry has not found its feet in supply chain, which is a matter if concern. The best part is that the eastern states of India are growing with better infrastructure and therefore, the yield of rice went up by 20 per cent in Bihar, and other states like Orissa and Chattishgarh have also done a good job this year. The worst part is that the food processing industry is facing barriers in trade within the country,” MoFPI's secretary informed.

Gowda said, “As the minister of agriculture and also food processing, my primary business is to represent the interests of farmers. But if I represent the interest of the food processing industries, there should not be a conflict between the groups, but it should be understood that it is for the mutual benefits of both the groups.”

“I am looking forward to invest in the food processing industry and agriculture for the benefit of farmers. It seems that some parts of the agriculture sector are growing, while others are left out. In rural India, a lot has to be done to improve farming. Nowadays, the farming community has become more demanding. We cannot satisfy the farmers by slogans, but they need good prices for their produce,” he added.

“Today farmers are uncertain about the prices they will fetch, and that is a fundamental problem. We, as a government, are not the best adjudicators of the market operations, and therefore we are investing in the wrong projects. We built up a cold storage unit in Karnataka, but it has been shut for the last one year, due to the loss incurred in starting it. We also need a better linkages in order to avoid wastages,” the minister said.

The first session of the seminar was titled, 'Opportunities in Uttar Pradesh'. Siraj Chaudhary, chairman, FICCI's food processing committee, and chairman, Cargill India, delivered the welcome address. The panellists included Rashid Kadimi, director and chief executive officer, Allansons Ltd; R K Khandal, vice-chancellor, Gautam Buddh Technical University, and Alok Ranjan, Uttar Pradesh's infrastructure industrial development and agriculture production commissioner.

The second session was titled, 'CEOs Forum – Industry's expectations from the government to expedite growth'. Sangeeta Pendurkar, co-chair, FICCI's food processing committee and managing director, Kellogg's India was the facilitator. The speakers were Venkatesh Kini, deputy president, India and South West Asia, The Coca-Cola Company; Chitranjan Dar, chief executive officer, foods division, ITC, and Samir Jain, managing director, Bunge India Pvt Ltd. Samantaray and Hussain also made comments.

The facilitator of the third session – titled, 'Feeding a billion: The role of the food processing industry – was Chaudhary, and the speakers were Debashish Mukherjee, partner, A T Kearney Ltd; Geetu Verma, executive director, foods, Hindustan Unilever Ltd; Siva Nagarajan, managing director, Mother Dairy, and Vandana Singh, chief executive officer, India Food Banking Network.

The fourth and final session was titled, 'Processed foods – Potential, perception and possibilities'. Neeraj Chandra, an industry expert, was the facilitator. The speakers were Mahesh Zagade, food safety commissioner, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Maharashtra; Indu Shahani, dean, H R College of Commerce; J S Pai, executive director, Protein Foods and Nutrition Development Association of India (PFNDAI); Bejon Misra, an expert on consumer protection policies, and Sanjay Sharma, chief executive officer, MTR Foods Pvt Ltd.

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