The move comes as part of a concerted effort by the government to transform the industry into a major engine for economic growth.
Minister for Food Processing Industries Subodh Sahai said the government was planning to call a meeting of state food processing ministers after the current parliamentary session closed to canvas their views on drawing up a separate policy formation process for the food processing industry.
“Our ministry will also chart a roadmap for scaling up R&D activities in the sector,” he added.
The backbone of the new policy would be the development of private-public partnerships (PPP) aimed at increasing the commercial orientation of R&D activities. Industry participation in R&D would be encouraged to ensure projects would be more likely to be driven by business-related demands.
Sahai said: “It will turn the spotlight on technical capacity building for research with the ultimate aim of increasing the processing of perishables from the 2007/08 level of 10 per cent to 20 per cent by 2015 and raise the value addition of agricultural produce from 25 per cent to 35 per cent.”
Development of new cost-effective methods in the fields of food preservation and packing were two priority areas of research, added the minister. Also key were advancements in innovative products and the utilisation of energy-efficient processing. Research would need to focus on the entire value chain; from producers to packaging, storage and distribution. Companies engaging in relevant R&D projects would benefit from tax incentives, he further announced.
Sahai, speaking at food processing workshop organised with the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry FCCI), specifically highlighted the need for the new research to tackle the enormous problem of food wastage in the Indian system.
“It is regrettable that at a time when the entire world is concerned about food security, India was wasting 50 per cent of its food due to a lack of food processing capabilities,” he said
He noted that wastage of agricultural produce had been reduced by around 15 per cent in recent years but that some Rs500bn (€7.3bn) of produce was still lost annually through spoilage.
Sahai re-iterated the government’s aim to create 500,000 women entrepreneurs in the sector by 2015.