Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Union Food Processing Minister has announced that all the 42 mega food parks approved by the government across the country will become operational in next three years, which will yield a potential investment of about Rs. 14,000 crore.
Speaking to reporters at the World Packaging Congress in Mumbai, the minister said, “I want these 42 mega food parks become operational by 2019 and we are working on the same. Five food parks are already operational, out of which 2 have already opened and 3 are to be inaugurated soon. All the 42 food parks will benefit about 12.5 lakh farmers and they are expected to generate about 3-4 lakh jobs also.”
Badal said Food processing generates largest employment, especially in food parks, where women are majorly employed. Investment on skilled labour would also be done by food processing industry as a farmer and his son should be an entrepreneur by adding value to farm produce, she added.
On a specific question related to Maharashtra, the minister informed four food parks were about to come up in Satara, Wardha, Aurangabad, and Ahmednagar, in addition to 13 cold chains and two abattoirs. Maharashtra is a state in food processing and agriculture.
Referring to a big challenge of food wastage, Badal pointed out 18 to 20% fruits and vegetables production, amounting Rs 92,000 crore go waste. Hence, she said her focus was on perishables, especially fruits and vegetables, as their processing in the country was as low as two per cent. She was hopeful that in the next four years, it will improve substantially, benefiting all stakeholders, including farmers, consumers and the industry.
Badal said milk, fruits, and vegetables has huge demand for packaging in India. Packaging industry was poised to grow at 13%-15% p a. Food processing industry alone constituteed 86% of packaging, Badal said. “Partnership between the farmers and food processing industry will take the country ahead. Contract manufacturing is one solution and win-win for both farmer and food processor,” she added.
The minister informed the various initiatives taken by the government and the ministry like food parks with subsidy upto Rs 50 crore, cold chain with subsidy for modernisation and maintenance of hygiene. Also excise duty has been reduced from 10-6% and sales tax has been reduced. Special fund of Rs 2,000 crore for NABARD is made available for agroprocessing unit for designated food parks.