More investment needed in India's processed meat sector

By Raghavendra Verma, in New Delhi

- Last updated on GMT

More investment needed in India's processed meat sector

Related tags Food Meat Livestock Beef Pork Poultry

Hygiene, quality and food safety will drive the sale of processed meat and poultry in India, but significant investment is required before these standards are achieved, an international conference on ‘Technology in Indian Food Processing Industry’ was told in New Delhi on Friday, 22 March.

While addressing the day-long conference, organised by Indo-American Chamber of Commerce in New Delhi, Sunil Kumar Sharma, managing director of consultant Global AgriSystem, said there was progress: “The market share of Venkateshwara Hatcheries, Suguna Chicken and Godrej Tyson Foods [poultry] is going up and they are setting up new processing facilities, slaughterhouses and distribution systems.”

However, Rajat K Baisya, chairman and chief consultant at the Strategic Consulting Group, presented a bleaker scenario for the branded meats sector: “I do not see immediate prospects for the Indian processed meat and poultry sector,”​ he said. While working for a European retail chain operating in India, Baisya said he could not ensure uniform production quality from local supplies and had to rely on imported items. However, he said that “the off-take was so low and the wastage was so high, we had to close down the whole [non-vegetarian] section”​ of the company.

In an inaugural address, India’s deputy minister for agriculture and food processing industries Tariq Anwar told delegates that, in the last five years, the government had allocated US$750m to various schemes to develop India’s food processing sector, but industry had only spent US$300m of the budget. He said, “If there is something that needs to be done at our end, we are willing to do it.”

Pankaj Kumar, director at the ministry of food processing industries (one of two ministries where Anwar is a minister) said investment was especially needed in the Indian cold storage chain, but that there was a serious problem given most Indian households do not own freezers storing products at -18°C.

His comments were echoed by Safal Frozen production chief Rakesh Mehra, who claimed most Indian consumers were not aware how to handle frozen food or even store products in the more ubiquitous chiller(0°C): “Later on they make complaints about food quality,”​ he said.

According to Kumar, India has only 30 million tonnes of cold storage facilities as against the current requirement of 61 million tonnes. In the last five years their numbers have grown by 100%, but 75% of capacity is used for storing potatoes.

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