Food sector’s recipe for rural prosperity - Hindustan Times

Food sector’s recipe for rural prosperity

Nov 03, 2023 03:00 AM IST

India's Food Processing Industry is a catalyst for economic growth and rural prosperity

India is a lively mix of ancient traditions and modern aspirations. The food processing industry in India is a dynamic force that sustains a billion-plus people while boosting economic growth. It serves as the backbone of a nation celebrated for its culinary traditions, transforming raw materials into delightful products. This sector crucially connects Indian farmers to domestic and international markets, ranking as one of the champion sectors. It is the fifth-largest industry in terms of production, consumption, exports, and growth potential.

A farm worker seen harvesting wheat crop in a field in Kurukshetra on September 29. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO) PREMIUM
A farm worker seen harvesting wheat crop in a field in Kurukshetra on September 29. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

Since 2014-15, the food processing sector has exhibited a remarkable performance, boasting an impressive average annual growth rate of over 9%. Such robust and consistent growth makes it an attractive prospect for investors, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders in the value chain. Encompassing registered and unregistered businesses, it ranks among the largest sectors by company count and economic value. It provides 2.03 million registered factory sector jobs (12.22%), plus an additional 5.11 million unregistered jobs. This sector constitutes 32% of India’s total food market and is set to generate nine million jobs by 2024.

To foster food processing industry growth, the Union government has initiated the comprehensive Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana (PMKSY). This programme focuses on modern infrastructure development and capacity building within the food processing sector, creating income opportunities for farmers. Notably, it has led to the approval of 41 mega food parks, 376 cold chain projects, 79 agro-processing clusters, and 52 operation green projects. Another vital initiative, the Pradhan Mantri Formalisation of Micro Food Processing Enterprises (PMFME), with a budget of 10,000 crore, seeks to formalise the unorganised sector, representing 85% of the food processing industry. The Union government’s PLI scheme, with an ambitious goal of supporting robust Indian brands and industry expansion, has already attracted 4,900 crore in investments. The government actively promotes the food processing sector through the Make in India campaign, aiming to boost domestic manufacturing and exports. In 2021-22, processed food exports reached about $10.41 billion, 22.60% of India’s total agri-food exports valued at $46.11 billion. Indian sugar exports have surged at a CAGR of 32.72% since 2014-15. The sector allows 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) through the automatic route and 100% FDI for trading activities, including e-commerce involving Indian food products, with government approval, attracting over $6 billion in FDI since 2014. The ministry of food processing industries introduced Nivesh Bandhu, an investor portal for consolidating industry information.

The second edition of World Food India (WFI), scheduled to be held in Delhi from November 3 to 5, aims to unite the global food processing industry, showcase India’s culinary heritage, highlight technological advancements, and encourage investments in the diverse food processing sector. One of the focus areas of WFI 2023 is millets, which the Narendra Modi government has been championing. Thanks to India’s advocacy, the 75th UN General Assembly ratified 2023 as the International Year of Millets. As a significant component of the WFI 2023 initiative, the Indian government is organising Millet Mahotsavs across 20 states and 30 key districts involved in millet processing. These events serve the purpose of bringing together various stakeholders in the food processing industry, with a specific focus on millet.

In essence, WFI 2023 represents a comprehensive effort to promote India’s food processing sector on the global stage, fostering collaboration, knowledge exchange, and investment opportunities while celebrating the country’s culinary excellence and technological prowess. With a diverse agricultural base, a growing population, and increasing demand for processed foods, the food processing sector possesses immense potential to not only boost the economy but also address pressing challenges such as rural employment, food security, and food waste reduction. In fact, the sector can be a catalyst for rural prosperity. As India journeys towards becoming a global leader in food processing, let us remember that its success is not only measured in economic terms but also in the improved livelihoods and the more secure future it offers for generations to come.

Pashupati Kumar Paras is the Union minister of food processing industries. The views expressed are personal

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