Published On: Fri, Sep 16th, 2016

India will be the food factory of the world: Harsimrat Kaur Badal

harismitakaurNew Delhi: Food processing industry must partner with the farmers to take our quality of food to new heights,” said Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal at the 12th Indo-US Economic Summit. Organized by Indo-American Chamber of Commerce – North India Council (IACC-NIC) in Delhi, Day 2 of the summit saw the minister share a roadmap on how the industries and governments in India and the US can collaborate to make India the food factory of the world. Said Ms Badal, “Despite myriad challenges, Indian farmers have been producing enough to feed 1.3 billion people of India. Unfortunately, food technology has not matched this pace. 40 per cent food is still wasted at the harvest and transportation level in the country. To bring this down, industry must partner with the farmers, improving the quality of our produce and ensure supplement income for our farmers.”

Talking about her ministry’s work in boosting food processing, the minister talked about SAMPADA, a new scheme for development of small and medium scale processing clusters close to the growing areas of the specific farm produce. She also explained how further investments in building cold chains, food testing labs and storage hubs at farm level will help in building a strong ecosystem. “There’s also a need to brand Indian food in a big away,” she added. Ms Badal also shared how leading big and small food retailers around the world are interested in manufacturing in India and taking that produce to their key markets.

She said, “At this juncture, we need a platform to bring together processors, retailers, logistics players, and farmer organizations. In January, we will hold a World Food Summit in India.”

In India, 31 per cent of a family’s income is spent on food. Creating a framework for a panel discussion on the future of agriculture and food processing by sharing key data points, Gokul Patnaik, Chairman, Agri System, said, “Total world trade of packaged commodities is $2 trillion. India’s packaged food business is $40 billion. Globally, people want to spend less time in cooking. Today, people want cooking time to be as less as 10-15 minutes. Going forward, demand for hygienic ready-to-cook and speciality food targeting specific consumer profiles will grow. Also, more consumers around the world want authentic taste in food.”

“In India, the biggest challenge is lack of control over raw material prices. To some extent, corporate contract farming can help in quality control,” he added.

US Embassy’s Minister Counsellor for Agricultural Affairs Scott Sindelar said, “Currently, US-Indo bilateral food trade is $5-6 billion. Today American companies are working with farmers to improve the quality of food produced by them. Persistent public perception that imports can hurt Indian farmers is a major hurdle in our relationship.”

As part of another session, eminent panelists discussed ways of accelerating Indo-US trade relations. Nivedita Mehra, Country Director, US-India Business Council, said, “The focus of Indo-US bilateral relations has shifted from maintaining only peace to building a roadmap for prosperity through trade. In the last two years, both the countries have collaborated for critical initiatives in high-growth sectors like Defence, Smart Cities, Healthcare and Agriculture, among others.” Highlighting some of the hurdles in Indo-US trade, Senior Diplomat Editor of The Times of India Indrani Bagchi said, “When it comes to trade matters, there is a certain distrust between the two countries. Business leaders must step forth to support the government for India’s bright economic future.”

Jayshree Sengupta, Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, spoke on challenges and opportunities in Make in India. According to her, India can take lessons from China on how it allowed American companies produce in China for China and the rest of the world. She said, “While India is a major exporter of gems, textiles, pharmaceuticals, the US is not very happy with our quality. There is a need for investments in R&D to meet America’s quality standards.”

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