In an effort to shape up the state as a hub for food processing, the Government of Kerala has taken up a project under its "Emerging Kerala 2012" initiative.
The initiative gives top priority to setting up of food processing centres at the district level in a bid to overcome the issues such as lack of transportation and cold storage facilities that are hampering the sector. The emphasis will be on encouraging better processing facilities for local produce like coconut.
"This was the first-of-its-kind in the state as food processing appears to be emerging as a hot sector across districts and that the Emerging Kerala meet is likely to be held for the investors in September at Kochi," T P Thomaskutty, executive director, Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC), informed FnB News in a chat over telephone.
Thomaskutty said that this was one of the projects being initiated under KSIDC and that most of the projects proposed were under small and medium enterprises.
He explained that currently there was only one food processing centre which was operational for the last five-six years in Kadancherry, near Mallapuram district in the state, but now places like Adoor in Pattanamthitta, and Kochi, and Kozhikode were being targeted for upcoming projects.
He added that setting up of food parks was also in the pipeline. He further pointed out that an activated carbon plant, modern cold storage, coconut-based food processing plant, and a modern rice mill were listed under the food and agro processing project as value addition.
According to a source, the cold storage project was key because Kerala accounted for around 20 per cent of the marine production from the country, though the state's share in the production of fruits and vegetables, milk, egg and meat was less than 10 per cent. Keeping in view the growth rate of population and demand, the production of perishable commodities was increasing every year the reason why cold storage was prime important component, added the source.
Further, Kerala was a key consumer state as it imported most of the fruits and vegetables from neighbouring states and that the annual growth rate of food grains was negative in the state, the source elaborated.
The growth of cold storage for horticultural items was slow as there was no cultivation of generally stored items like apple, potato, oranges and chilli.
There are about 193 cold storages in the state having a total storage capacity of 58,105 tonne, as on December 2009, the source said, adding that around 176 cold storages out of 193 were in the private sector and 11 of them were in the public sector and six were in the cooperative sector.
During the same period, the total number of cold storages in the country was 5,381, having a total storage capacity of 24.45 million tonnes.
Thus Kerala accounted for only 3.5 per cent of the cold storage units in the country, with the storage contribution being a meagre 0.24 per cent and that almost 95 per cent of the cold storages in the state were for the storage of marine products and for the captive use of exporters.
The project profile encompasses building a multi-purpose medium capacity cold storage plant for preservation of all kinds of vegetables, fruits, dry fruits, fruit pulp, spices, food grains, frozen items, dairy products, jaggery and ice-creams. The plant would be operational, on an average, 10 hours per day.
The total project cost for setting up a 5,000 MT modern cold storage would be in the range of Rs 350-400 lakh, including cost of 1 acre land. The project implementation period would be 12 months.
Coconut-based food processing plant
India is the third-largest coconut producing country in the world. Copra and coconut oil are the two major products of the coconut processing industry.
Nearly 60 per cent of the total production of nuts is utilised for food purposes and the rest goes for oil extraction. In spite of the fact that our country has the necessary raw material to launch new product lines, minimal progress has taken place in the application of modern technology for full utilisation of various coconut products such as desiccated coconut and its powder, packed coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut milk powder, tender coconut water, vinegar and nata-de-coco.
Products such as virgin coconut oil, spray dried coconut milk powder, dessicated coconut powder, coconut vinegar and nata-de-coco are proposed to be manufactured in the plant.
The processing capacity of the coconut-based food processing plant would be 50,000 nuts and 200 litres of mature coconut water per day (15 million coconuts / year).
"The project is proposed to be located at KSIDC's Industrial Growth Centre at Kinalur, Kozhikode district," Thomaskutty said.
An extent of around 1 acre of dry land is proposed to be required for setting up a coconut-based food processing plant.
The total cost for setting up a coconut-based food processing plant having processing capacity of 15 million coconuts / year, would be around Rs 5 crore. This includes the cost of 1 acre land. The project implementation period would be 12 months.