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Aim to reduce food wastage and curb inflation: Badal

Aim to reduce food wastage and curb inflation: Badal
How has your experience been in the ministry till now?
I find the job to be a challenging one, keeping in mind that the due potential of the field of food processing has not been fully exploited. The schemes of the ministry of food processing are aimed at transforming the lives of all categories of farmers – big or small. The implementation of the schemes of the ministry will result in food processing becoming India’s own policy innovation which helps in tackling food wastage and curbing inflation. We are focusing on providing fair and remunerative prices to the farmers; containing wastage of agri-produce and exploring the commercial potential of exporting the processed food. 

What are the new initiatives taken up by your ministry in this Government?
There have been various new initiatives we have taken in the ministry which include decentralisation of schemes with active participation of state governments. We have also launched an Investors’ Portal for promoting investment in the Food Processing sector. We have constantly been involved in regular interaction with industry and state Governments for activating a single window clearance system. The excise duty on food processing and packaging machinery has been reduced from 10% to 6%. We have set up a special fund of Rs. 2000 crore in the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) to provide affordable credit to the food processing units. This will be set up in designated Food Parks. Application Forms of all the Schemes currently being implemented by the ministry of Food Processing and affiliated Industries have been simplified. Along with this the requirement of the number of supporting documents such as affidavit, agreements to be submitted have been reduced. We have also created a Food map of India identifying surplus raw material;this has been prepared and uploaded to the ministry website. The idea is to identify the surplus and deficit areas in the country of various agricultural and horticultural produce;so as to plan processing clusters by means of setting up processing facilities under current schemes.

The ministry has launched a new centrally sponsored scheme- National Mission on Food Processing in 12th Plan with an allocation of Rs.1250 crores of Government of India’s share.  The expenditure in the scheme is shared in the ratio of 75:25 (GoI:States) in general areas and 90:10 in North Eastern states.   In addition, the ministry is also contemplating a new scheme exclusively for the perishable food products sector with enhanced assistance. 

What have been your achievements in the ministry till date?
Our achievements include setting up of 4 Mega Food Parks which are already operational and 21 more are in the various stages of implementation.  In the Cold Chain Scheme, a total of 111 Cold Chain Projects are under implementation. 50 projects have already been completed. The National Mission on Food Processing(NMFP) has gained momentum, particularly, in the current year after our Government taking over; this is because the expenditure position has improved.  As on date, Rs.333 crores of GoI NMFP share has been released to various states. The  states  have already sanctioned 1262 projects under various schemes of the NMFP. Under the Technology Upgradation Scheme, the ministry could liquidate the 11th Plan committed liabilities to the tune of Rs.492 crores for 3095 food processing units in the 12th Plan.  The above  amount includes  Rs.143.78 crores during 2014-15 for 884 units.

What is your vision for the ministry and future plans regarding it?
The ministry aims to create infrastructure that is easily available at the doorstep of the farmer especially for perishable goods; which gives the farmer multiple options of storage, and enables him to process or add value to his goods. This will be beneficial for him from the income point of view as well help the farmer prevent food wastage. In the growth story of India, Food processing in the coming years is going to play a very pivotal role in changing the livelihood of farmers, by reducing wastage, increasing availability ,thus directly impacting the consumer by bringing down food price inflation. 

Regarding our future plans, the ministry is taking steps to establish Mega Food Parks across the country. Mega Food Park is the flagship programme of our ministry and shall become a hub for food processing activities to provide a bridge from farm to fork. In a way-food processing is food saved. Given that India is the largest producer of milk and the second largest producer of fruits, vegetables and cereals, the present level of just 2% of processing of fruits and vegetables is extremely low. We are working on improving this.
 
What is your take on the issue of food wastage and what are the steps taken by the ministry to deal with this issue?
As per the study released in 2010 by Central Institute of Post Harvest Engineering and Technology (CIPHET), Rs.44000 crores worth of agricultural crops and commodities are wasted in the country. We are very much concerned about this issue. and have given top priority for implementation of cold chains.  So far we have sanctioned 138 cases. In some months,we would be sanctioning another 20 cases to enhance the cold chain capacity in the country.

Tell us about the ministry’s efforts to encourage setting up of New Food Processing Industries and Cold storage/ Cold Chains?
Presently, the ministry under its scheme of Cold Chain, Value Addition and Preservation Infrastructure is already assisting 111 integrated cold chain projects. These projects have already created a capacity of 126832 metric tonnes of cold storage,  30215 metric tonnes of Deep Freeze, 59.5 metric tonnes per hour of Individual Quick Freezing (IQF), 84.86 lakhs ltrs. per day of milk processing/ storage and 330 refrigerated vans. The ministry has already issued an Expression of Interest for filling up 25 vacant slots of integrated cold chain projects.  Keeping in view the huge gap in the cold storage capacity in the country, the ministry has proposed to sanction 500 more projects for creating 2.5 million metric tonnes additional cold storage capacity during the next 5 years and to make the scheme available on tap to the prospective entrepreneurs round the year.

National Mission on Food Processing has 2 components i.e Technology upgradation and Cold chain for Non-horticulture products.  Both the schemes are implemented by the state Governments. Under the mission, all the states have sanctioned 30 cold chain projects for Non-horticulture products at a cost of Rs.129.84 crores and 687 Food Processing units were assisted at a cost of Rs.231.89 crores.  

Tell us about the ministry promoting storage of Farm Production?
The ministry at present under its scheme of Cold Chain, Value Addition and Preservation Infrastructure is already assisting 111 integrated cold chain projects. These projects have already created a capacity of 126832 metric tonnes of cold storage, 89167 metric tonnes of CA storage, 30215 metric tonnes of Deep Freeze, 59.5 metric tonnes per hour of Individual Quick Freezing (IQF), 84.86 lakhs ltrs. per day of milk processing/ storage and 330 refrigerated vans. We have already issued an Expression of Interest for filling up 25 vacant slots of integrated cold chain projects. Keeping in view the huge gap in the cold storage capacity in the country, the ministry has proposed to sanction 500 more projects for creating 2.5 million metric tonnes of additional cold storage capacity during the next 5 years and to make the scheme available on tap to prospective entrepreneurs round the year. 
Tania Ameer

Tania Ameer

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