Minister of state for food processing industries Tariq Anwar has said that the inflation and distortion in the prices of food products are result of manmade crisis. He blamed middlemen for the steep price rise, as seen in recent times and suggested that food processing industries could well rescue the country in such a situation.
While replying to FnB News, on the sidelines of a conference—India Farm to Fork 2013—organised by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry here on Friday, the minister said that the food processing sector dealt with value addition and if the country could utilise all its potential then food prices would remain reasonable.
“Around 20-25% of the food produce goes wasted. The processing sector could help in limiting the wastage and in turn the price indices will remain under control,” he stated.
He was particularly referring to the recent rise in onion prices. He added that the production of the onions was not less this year but some shortcomings in front of cold storage, cold chains, market chains, supply chain, middlemanship, and post- harvest storage facility could be blamed for the same.
He also suggested that strict monitoring could avert such a situation and added that the government was moving in a fast lane in improving all support needed for the processing industry.
On the issue of recent upsurge in protest by cane farmers in many places across the country, he said that the Union government had taken serious view of the situation and a committee had been formed by the prime minister headed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, finance minister P Chidambaram, and Ajit Singh as members.
It is pertinent to mention here that cane farmers are demanding increase in prices for their cane produce. Even some suicides were also reported from various parts of the country.
"The committee would look into the demands of the farmers. The government is in constant touch with farmers' representatives and with industries as well," he said.
Meanwhile Anwar assured all help to the food processing industries sector and urged the industry to utilise technology intervention in improving quality and quantity of the agricultural produce so that the quality of processed food could be improved.
On the question of demand of relaxation in import duty on processing machinery, the minister assured help and said that the ministry was giving incentives to the industry given that whatever they were importing should benefit the food processing sector.
Indian share grows to 2.2% of world agri trade
Meanwhile, Asit Tripathy, chairman, APEDA, informed that the share of India in world agriculture trade had gone up to 2.2% from 1.5% in last three years with rice, guar gum, cotton, dairy and buffalo meat leading the share of Indian exports.
He said that India had displaced rivals like Thailand and Vietnam to become the number one rice exporter in world. This year the target of rice export is 11million tonne. On policy issue he said that the ministry of commerce had made a policy of no ban on export of processed food.
He also urged the industry to help in improving the quality and quantity of agricultural produce so that the difference between what the country was exporting and what was left for domestic consumption could be eradicated.
Conference – Key for production to distribution process
Meanwhile, after inaugurating the conference, Anwar said that such a conference was significant to policy-makers involved in the process from production to distribution, which was a huge challenge.
Suman Jyoti Khaitan, president, PHD Chamber, in his welcome address said that there was a lot to be done in the field of agriculture, like the food security and employment opportunities. Issues like irrigation, water supply, food processing and packaging need to be taken care of, as agriculture accounts to 14% of the manufacturing GDP.
N M Kejriwal, chairman, agri-committee, PHD Chamber, presented the theme for the conference. He highlighted that agriculture and food processing are one of the thrust areas of the chamber and there are many areas for the entrepreneurs to invest, which include supply chain, cold chain, meat and dairy, and seafood.
Tarun Jain, VP, food services and agriculture, Technopak, focussed on challenges and said that there was need to improve quality of produce and limit the wastage of food which amounted to almost Rs 20,000 crore.
He said that in order to bridge this gap, the storage-distribution and processing of food needed to be looked at carefully. India needs a collective think-tank of investors, entrepreneurs and government bodies to re-orient the whole process.
The day one of the conference hosted two panel discussions on the issue of agriculture horticulture and livestock resources in India vis-a-vis supply chain challenges and policy environment, and on SWOT analysis of the food processing sector in India with a eye on innovation, creation and R&D.
Present on the occasion were Dr Mangal Singh, director, agriculture, Punjab; Zbigniew Magdziarz, commercial counsellor, Trade & Investment Promotion Section, Embassy of Poland; Asit Tripathy, chairman, APEDA ; and Gh Hassan Mir, agriculture minister, J&K, and others.