India signs cooperation agreement with World Food Programme for 2023-27
Ashwin Bhadri, Chief Executive Officer, Equinox Labs
India is a food-producing country. However, despite having fertile lands, there is a lack of efficient food research and development (R&D) initiatives to help reduce wastage, enhance food safety and improve crop yield. To bridge this gap, increased investment in food research has been made in the last decade. The food industry in India is undergoing a significant transformation due to the increasing penetration of technology and the rising demand for quality food products. To sustain this growth and ensure that the food industry is competitive in the global market, there is a need for increased investments in food R&D. This can be achieved through public-private partnerships (PPPs) between the government, industry players and academic institutions.
Public-private partnerships are mutually beneficial collaborations between the government and private stakeholders in the food industry, aimed at achieving specific goals and objectives. These partnerships bring together the resources and expertise of both the public and private sectors to create a comprehensive and integrated ecosystem, which allows for higher levels of innovation and increased efficiency. The government of India has set up several public-private partnerships to promote investment in food R&D. For example, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has established several Centres of Excellence (CoEs) in collaboration with various companies such as PepsiCo India, Symrise, Cargill, and Monsanto, among others. These CoEs not only facilitate research but also provide training and create an environment conducive to technology transfer between both partners.
In India, the government has already taken several initiatives to promote food R&D investments. For example, the Government of India has launched the National Mission on Food Processing (NMFP) to increase the share of the processed food industry in the overall gross domestic product (GDP) of the country. The mission aims to create an enabling environment for the growth of the food processing sector by providing financial, infrastructure, and other support. Additionally, the Department of Biotechnology has been supporting projects related to food processing and technology. Further, the National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMAET) promotes research on agricultural technology and its dissemination in the form of improved seed varieties, advanced farming techniques, and soil management. Similarly, the Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA) programme supports research on innovative agricultural practices such as precision agriculture, soil health management, and integrated pest management.
The government can also provide incentives to private organisations and industry players to increase investments in food R&D. This can be done through fiscal measures such as tax credits and grants, as well as through subsidies and other incentives such as low-interest loans. In addition to these, the government offers incentives such as tax breaks, subsidies, and soft loans to private companies to encourage them to invest in food R&D. These incentives have enabled private companies to conduct research in areas such as food processing, preservation, packaging, and distribution.
Moreover, the establishment of public-private partnerships between the government and the private sector can help to create an environment conducive to innovation and development. Private companies can leverage the expertise and resources of public institutions, while public institutions can benefit from the experience and resources of private companies. This partnership can also help to bring together the best minds to solve problems in the food industry.
Finally, public-private partnerships can also help to create an ecosystem that encourages the growth of startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the food industry. These businesses can benefit from the resources and expertise of both the public and private sectors, leading to increased investments in R&D and innovation.
Private-public partnerships can be extremely fruitful in many circumstances. For example, the private sector has the necessary financial resources and skills to develop new products. Meanwhile, the public sector has the technical expertise and other resources needed to implement the new technologies.
By bringing together the public and private sectors, food R&D in India has the potential to improve crop yields and boost productivity. This would be particularly beneficial for small-scale farmers in rural parts of the country. It could also lead to the development of new agricultural products that are tailored to the specific needs of the Indian market. In addition to creating new products, these partnerships could also help transform existing processes, such as storage and packaging, to make them more efficient and sustainable. While the public-private sector partnerships have some obvious benefits, there are a few potential drawbacks that must be considered as well.
One of the major concerns regarding public-private partnerships is that they have the potential to be highly inefficient and costly. This is because public-sector organisations tend to have rigid structures and bureaucratic processes that can slow down the decision-making process and reduce the overall effectiveness of the collaboration. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that these new initiatives are designed and implemented effectively so that the project results in real improvements in agricultural production and productivity. Another major concern is that there might be a conflict of interest between the different stakeholders involved.
However, by including representatives from both the public and private sectors in decision-making bodies, this issue can be addressed. Public-private partnerships can also provide a valuable source of funding for new initiatives and research programmes that would otherwise be too expensive for the private sector to support on its own. Therefore, the appropriate measures must be taken to ensure transparency and accountability in the process.
Ultimately, the success of a public-private partnership depends on the ability of all parties involved to work together for collective benefit. To ensure that this is achieved, it is necessary to provide adequate training and support for the new participants and to develop a shared understanding of the goals of the initiative. India has the advantage of advancements in the field of agriculture. India has harnessed its expertise in agriculture to extract more harvest than before. Being an agricultural country also enables India to export its produce to different countries. Increased investment in food research and development would translate to high-quality and safer food products. Public-private partnerships would also act as a catalyst in the process.