If there is one sector that has been growing faster than agriculture as well as manufacturing sectors, has the potential to create jobs in the rural areas, bridge the gap between the price paid by the consumer and that received by the farmer and create value addition and earn foreign exchange by export of value-added farm produce, it is the food processing sector. In addition, this sector does not only remain a bridge between farmers and entrepreneurs, it converts the farmer into an entrepreneur.
This was stated by Sharad Pawar, minister for agriculture and food processing industries, after inaugurating the National Institute of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM), a world-class institution in food processing sector, at Kundli, Haryana. Bhupinder Singh Hooda, chief minister, Haryana; Harish Rawat, water resources minister, Tariq Anwar and Charan Das Mahant, ministers of state, Arun Maira, member of the Planning Commission, and local Members of Parliament and Legislative Assembly, were present on the occasion.
While highlighting the huge potential of this ‘sunrise sector’, Pawar also spoke about the challenges the sector faces and how NIFTEM will help the sector to grow. “Though a sunrise sector, it is facing various bottlenecks like lack of infrastructure, packaging and grading centres, quality control and testing facilities. However, I consider the lack of human resource as one of the most important impediments in the development of this sector. Many entrepreneurs meet me and tell me how difficult it is to get skilled manpower to work. It is in this background, the foundation of NIFTEM was laid. This institute is expected to bring a pioneering work in development of Human Resource in the food processing sector,” he said.
Pawar said NIFTEM will provide a one-stop solution to the food processing sector. He elaborated, “Besides developing world class managerial talent and advanced know-how in the area of food science, food technology and management, it will function as a knowledge repository in the food processing domain, conduct frontier area research for development of the sector and facilitate business incubation services. The institute will offer high-quality education, research and management programme specific to the food industry, provide referral advice on food standards, disseminate knowledge on the food sector and provide business incubation facility.”
“The institute will also provide other core activities to bridge the skill gap between demand and availability, provide complete spectrum of consultancy services to food processing industries, strive for promoting innovation in the sector and work for upgradation of SME clusters,” he said.
One important aspect of its functioning is that it has ‘theme centres’ on different sectors such as dairying, cereal-based products, animal protein, beverages, confectionery and fruit and vegetable-based foods. Pawar said there are also themes cutting across these sectors, e.g. management, packaging, food standards and testing.
Earlier, Rawat expressed the hope that NIFTEM will bridge the serious shortage of skilled manpower in this sector.
Anwar emphasised the need for modernising the complex distribution system of farm commodities. Rakesh Kacker, chancellor of the institute, gave details of the facilities created at the institute.
NIFTEM has recently been conferred deemed university status. The institute has begun its first academic session this summer. It confers B. Tech. (Food Technology and Management), M. Tech. and Ph. D. in the area of Food Technology and Management. The minister informed that the first academic session, which began this summer, has 115 students in B. Tech and 88 in M. Tech, and these students ranked quite high in competitive examinations.