The food processing sector is growing at a fast rate and constitutes almost 9% to 10% of the GDP and incorporates agriculture as well as manufacturing. Consumer demands for convenience foods and disposable incomes have propelled the industry to provide a wide range of products. Food products include the conventional fare like fruits and vegetables, fish poultry, meat, seafood, dairy products, grains, cereals, confectionery items and the new age products like fermented drinks and food, nutraceuticals, ready to eat (RTE) and ready to heat (RTH) foods.
The Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi’s recent inauguration of a food park at Tumkur in Karnataka is being seen as a shot in the arm for the food processing industry. The government sees great scope in this sector and hence is encouraging the industry
- by providing infrastructure
- giving industrial licenses
- encouraging joint ventures between government and private sector
Mega food parks that the government is setting up will encourage private investment in infrastructure while the farmer will benefit from the technological knowledge given here. The government has also set up organizations like the National Mission on Food Processing (NMFP) to disseminate information about availability of resources and facilities in the various states and will create an investment portal. Through the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) the government is able to provide world-class food processing technologies. Nanotechnology and intelligent packaging have helped to modernize the industry.
The demand for processed foods is likely to increase as time has shrunk due to lifestyle changes. Working women no longer mind paying the extra penny for conveniently cut and hygienically packaged, non-processed vegetables and fruit. Technological advances have also resulted in a faster growth in the food industry as the new technology is able to provide the consumer healthier and safer food through
- longer shelf life
- science based methods for dehydration,
- pulverisation of raw material for easier cooking,
- better retention of flavours and nutrients
The food processing industry has received an allocation of Rs. 2,000 crores from the government so that it gets the needed impetus for growth. Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley announced a reduction from 10% to 6% in excise duty on specified food processing and packaging machinery in this budget.
The Union Food Processing Minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal has assured the industry that her Ministry will work towards improving cold chains and removing supply side bottlenecks. However, what will give the industry a better boost is less arbitration and more transparency in food regulations. The FSSAI’s product approval stringency is causing stagnation in the industry. Though regulations are required for the safety of consumers, yet a little more transparency would see the industry surge ahead.