Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the Union food processing industries minister, has revealed that current wastage stands at 18% of all agricultural commodities, especially fruit and vegetables.
She added that a move towards greater food processing investment would allow India to me more self-reliant as a result of more produce being supplied to the market.
$7.2bn wasted each year
Speaking at an Assocham event, Badal said that around Rs440bn (US$7.2bn) of fruits and vegetables are wasted a year, which could be reduced significantly if suitable investment were made within the food processing sector. With only 2-3% of perishables currently processed, the food processing sector should be viewed as a significant opportunity, she said.
The minister also called on individual states to give their views on ways to reduce further losses in agricultural commodities. At the same time, she hailed the government’s National Mission for Food Processing (NMFP), which has seen half of its grants taken up by states over the first six months of this year.
The scheme, which was announced two years ago, is an attempt to bridge the infrastructural gap between agricultural suppliers and processors by decentralising the food ministry’s policies and developing a more robust supply chain.
Lost at the quayside
Elsewhere, Badal has attacked the quantity of branded goods that are still being held up at Indian ports, following reports that Rs250bn (US$41bn) worth of food and beverage shipments is currently shuttered on docksides as a result of the Food Safety Standard Authority of India’s (FSSAI) insistence on scrutinising all labels and logos.
This, say importers, has led to large quantities of goods either perishing, being recalled or even re-exported, even though they are usually compliant with Codex Alimentarius, the global standard for food products.
The FSSAI is the body charged with regulating the food industry and ensuring safe unadulterated products from imports and domestic producers reach the market. However, sections of the food industry have accused its dockside practices as being “arbitrary regulatory scrutiny”.
Moreover, it has been pointed out that the FSSAI has not harmonised its product standardisation processes with global Codex parameters, leading to arbitrary advisories in the name of approving products.
Thrashing out a deal
After it came to light that some major consignments had been recalled by major European and Asian brands, the prime minister’s office (PMO) convened an inter-ministerial meeting of food processing and health ministries to find a solution to the problem.
“India cannot afford to be seen as anti-business,” Badal told Hindustan Times. We have inherited this from the UPA [former government].
“This is somewhat reminiscent of the ‘licence permit raj’, which is hurting new enterprises. It is an inter-ministerial issue and we are solving this at the earliest with the intervention of the PMO.”