Food processing industry must focus on areas such as modern machines, technology and bio- degradable packaging to overcome the challenges facing the sector and promote its growth, a top official said today. Food Processing Secretary J P Meena also said that the government is working on resolving issues related to credit availability to the industry. There is a need to work on improving infrastructure for food processing sector to increase exports, reduce wastage and supply the products in every nook and corner of the country, he said at a function here on food business. Meena said the sector faces several challenges in areas like credit availability, modern machines as well as technology and bio-degradable packaging material. "We are thinking that whether we can have sector specific financial institutions in the country (for lending).
We would be working with the industry players on programmes where we can become partners in raising such institutions to lend to the sector," he said. The industry mostly imports machines and technology, but now they should focus on strengthening their research and development in this area, Meena added. He also said that to deal with the problem of packaging material, the industry should work on alternate products to replace plastics. To ensure better returns to farmers, the government has doubled budget allocation to the food processing ministry to Rs 1,400 crore for the fiscal 2018-19 and set up institutions to finance agro-processing projects. Meena also urged food regulator FSSAI to work on traceability area of the sector as lot of concerns were raised regarding use of pesticides in leafy vegetables and fruits. Currently, there is no mechanism to measure level of pesticides in fruits and vegetables. To deal with fluctuation in prices of tomato, onion and potato, he sought views of the industry to work out a programme in this regard. Taking about following rules and regulations, he asked the industry not to set up units "anywhere and everywhere" and instead use infrastructure created by government including clusters and food parks. "If you see problem of Delhi about sealing or we have seen 4-5 years back, the type of problem it has created, we do not seem to comply with any sort of regulations in day-today life... We put industry anywhere and everywhere," he added. He said that setting up units at proper places would help cut costs and improve efficiency. Speaking at the function, FSSAI Chairperson Ashish Bahuguna said the industry must work on standards to promote the quality of products. Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said that under the proposed new industrial policy, the ministry is trying to identify sectors which would be growing at faster rate in the coming years and "food processing is one such sector". He said there is huge scope and opportunity to boost exports of marine products and processed food items.
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