Yet a new report finds that an underdeveloped food processing industry and inadequate post-harvest infrastructure have resulted in huge wastage of produce.
In an assessment of India’s food processing machinery industry, analyst Research & Markets found that only about 2% of fruit and vegetables, 6% of poultry and 8% of seafood ever made it to be processed. This is even though consumer demand for processed foods—never before a huge market in home-cooking India—has been skyrocketing.
“Demand is growing rapidly for processed food products. Growth is being driven by rising incomes, rapid urbanisation and changes in the family structure that have resulted in a significant increase in the number of nuclear families,” it said.
“Changing palate, lifestyles and a young population are also driving demand. It is against this backdrop that demand for processed food has grown annually by about 15% in the past five years, and the growth rate is expected to accelerate to over 20% for the foreseeable future.”
To drum up interest in investment in food processing—and the government’s planned mega food parks—India’s dynamic food processing industries minister, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, has been contact with many of the country’s food chiefs.
Food processing is central the Indian government’s flagship “Make in India” agenda, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi claims will boost the prospects of food manufacturers at a time when domestic processed food supplies are lagging.
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Regulator to take first step to introduce junk food warning labels
India’s food regulator is expected to have formed a definition for “junk food” in the next two months, giving scope for possible new mandatory nutrition warnings for potato chips and samosas.
The FSSAI wants to make a clear distinction between healthy food and unhealthy food, said its chief executive, Pawan Kumar Agarwal.
“We are trying to define junk food based on the proportion of salt, sugar and fat content… The calculations are based on the Indian diet chart and recommended diet as well as international standards,” Agarwal said.
A decision by the regulator on a definition would pave the way for India to become one of the only countries to legislate for a junk food label.
It is expected that a decision on the definition and whether to introduce warning labels will be made in the next 60 days.
India needs a definition because no guidelines for junk food exist, and the term was not listed under the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006. Last year the FSSAI announced that it would begin drawing guidelines for “making available wholesome, nutritious, safe and hygienic food to school children”.
Pakistan academics demand legislation to safeguard food security
Pakistani food experts and researchers have called for legislation to ensure food security by allocating adequate funds for crop research, and to stop the building of new settlements on fertile agricultural land.
Speaking at a conference on agriculture, food and animal sciences in Karachi, figures including Sindh Agriculture University vice-chancellor Mujeebuddin Memon Sehrai said that food resources were threatened by acute water shortage and deteriorating soil fertility caused by changing weather patterns.
Dr Mujeebuddin said he would send a number of recommendations for improvements to cropping systems to the Sindh chief minister for assessment.
With other senior academics, he opposed the conversion of fertile land into towns and villagse, and called for the practice to be checked through legislation.
Together, they also called for the government to appoint a high-level committee of researchers, academics and officials to frame food policy, and stressed the need for conservation and a restoration of local animal breeds and indigenous seeds.