NEW DELHI, India — The Indian food processing industry seems to be aiming high. The country has developed an ambitious plan to ensure growth of the sector, to attract investments and to promote sustainability. According to Food Processing Industries secretary Rakesh Kacker about 30 mega food processing plants are under construction across India, Business Standard has reported.
At present there are seven projects in an advanced stage of development. Food parks in Punjab, Assam, West Bengal, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are close to being completed, while 13 more have been given final approval but are still to get underway. Earlier this year, 15 projects were given ''in-principle'' approval and two more are currently preparing their applications for conditional go-ahead, Kacker explained, speaking at a food-processing industry summit in Bangalore.
The government announced earlier in 2012 that food processing was the fastest-growing segment of the manufacturing sector in 2011/2012 and said it will focus on developing its full potential. The food processing industry has achieved an average growth rate of more than 10 percent over the last five years. The new projects for mega food parks will further facilitate growth, with the government pledging to provide the necessary basic infrastructure, including warehouses, storage facilities, laboratories and fruit ripening spaces.
The Ministry of Food Processing industries (MoFPI) intends in its National Mission on Food Processing to decentralize administration of the sector, get states more involved in the implementation of projects and make schemes themselves more flexible. As part of the central government''s intention to boost domestic production in the food-processing industry, states will be entitled to make decisions regarding the sector that reflect their own individual needs, Kacker told attendees at the summit.
In an effort to ensure that high standards of the industry are being consistently met, MoFPI has set up four separate schemes to be implemented - technology upgrade, skills and human resource development, cold chains for non-horticultural crops and promotional activities for integration. Although the Food Safety and Standards Authority will continue to have the final say in regulation, the MoFPI hopes to see the industry itself getting more involved in self-regulation, Kacker pointed out. The process has already been set underway, with the Quality Council of India working on a roadmap to develop a specific system for self-certification that food-processing units will be able to apply themselves in a bid to improve production quality.
Growth in the food-processing sector is essential for broader economic growth and especially for the national farm sector. Being one of the strongest segments of the economy, the industry is key for achieving India''s twin goals of food security and inclusive growth, the MoFPI secretary noted.
He also said that an increase in demand for food products is expected, as consumers'' demographic profile is changing. About two-thirds of the 1.2 billion population of the country is under 35 years old and estimates predict a tenfold rise in the size of the middle class to about 583 million people from the present 50 million.