Despite achieving record levels of production in foodgrain and horticulture crops, post-harvest losses remain a major challenge, observed N. Kumar, Vice-Chancellor, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, here on Saturday.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony of the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT) here on Saturday, Dr. Kumar said the country’s food grain production had touched an all time high of 283 million tonnes and crossed 300 million tonnes in fruits and vegetables during 2017-18.
Despite the record production, post-harvest loss in fruits and vegetables had been put at 30 to 35 % accounting for a huge economic drain. Thus the need for evolving an efficient processing system to minimise the losses assumed more importance so as to achieve the goal of enhancing the income of farmers, he added.
Stating that the food processing sector was growing rapidly, contributing 13% of total exports, he said the sector ranked fifth in terms of production, consumption and export. During the last five years, the export market of processed food grew at a cumulative rate of 12 % reaching 16.2 billion US dollars. While the export of fresh agro-products was around 75%, processed foods accounted for 28%.
Dilip N. Kulkarni, president, Jain Irrigation Systems, observed that constraints outweighed opportunities in the food processing industry, a sunrise industry in the country. In the last five years the industry had witnessed a tremendous development. But, lack of infrastructure such as cold storage and other facilities hampered the progress.
Further, non-availability of agriculture/horticulture raw materials throughout the year was a major concern as a food processing unit required raw materials for at least 300 days in a year to remain alive in the industry.
Stating that right variety, right quality and right quantity of agriculture/horticulture raw materials were most important for running a food processing unit successfully, only 7 to 10 % of agriculture produce in the country qualified for processing whereas in foreign countries this percentage was between 50 and 70. As far as the horticulture produce, most of Indian varieties did not possess the quality required for food processing, he claimed.
Another area of concern was automation of machines. As on date most of the machines installed in the food processing units were imported. Efforts should be made to design and manufacture equipment required for food processing in India and it was heartening to note that the IIFPT had taken some initiatives in this regard, he added.
Mr.Kulkarni called upon the graduating students to go for establishment of food processing units instead of looking for employment.
IIFPT Director, C.Anandharamakrishnan, said if agriculture and food processing industry went hand in hand, it would result in a big enhancement of employment opportunities and income of farmers.
The IIFPT, which would soon be accorded with the status of Institute of National Importance, has conceived “Waste to Wealth” as its mission for the current year.
Degree certificates, issued by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, were distributed to 53 students.