NE has vast potential in food processing sector: Teli

ITANAGAR, Sep 3: Union MoS for Food Processing Industry, Rameswar Teli, said the Northeast has immense but largely untapped potential in the food processing sector, adding that his ministry would leave no stone unturned to make this potential a game-changer in the region.
“The region, with its vast resources and biodiversity, produces ample exotic fruits and vegetables, which can be made economically viable through the food processing industry,” Teli, who represents Assam’s Dibrugarh parliamentary constituency, said at the inaugural function of a workshop on the Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana (PMKSY) here on Tuesday.
He expressed surprise that food processing as an industry was never given a second thought in the NE region, even by intellectuals.
Teli said his ministry is planning to establish a food technology institute in Assam, “so that the youths of the region can qualify as food technology professionals.”
Citing the rich potential of Arunachal in this sector, Teli called for “creation of a food processing department to exclusively deal with the subject,” and offered full cooperation of his ministry.
Teli also urged the state government to expedite the establishment of the mega food park in Arunachal, which has already approved by the ministry.
“Of the Rs 140 crore for the Northeast, we still have Rs 110 crore unspent. Therefore, the states of the region need to accelerate the development of mega food parks and mini food parks as envisaged and proposed,” Teli said.
Chief Minister Pema Khandu informed that all decks have been cleared for establishing the mega food park here, and that the state government would provide all basic facilities, like water and power supply.
Underscoring the state’s potential in agriculture and horticulture production like kiwi, orange, apple, pineapple, banana, tea, etc, Khandu said, “If food processing is taken up extensively, it in itself could change the economy of the farming community.”
He cited the lack of market knowledge as one of the big hindrances in the development of the farming sector, and called for enhancing the farmers’ knowledge of the latest market trends and demands.
“Nature has given us so much; we can easily become the richest and happiest state in the country,” he said.
Khandu said the state government has already prepared a roadmap to boost the agriculture and horticulture sectors, based on which schemes are being formulated and launched phase-wise.
“We have set a target to at least benefit 90,000 farmers in the state by 2022,” he added.
Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein and Industry Minister Tumke Bagra also spoke. Both admitted the need for creating awareness on the food processing sector besides special assistance from the central government by way of granting funds for implementing schemes.
The PMKSY is a comprehensive package which is aimed at creating modern infrastructures along with efficient supply chain management from the farm gates to the retail outlets. It is expected to not only provide a big boost to the growth of the food processing sector in the country but also help in providing better returns to the farmers.
Under the PMKSY, seven schemes are being implemented: mega food parks; integrated cold chain and value addition infrastructure; creation and expansion of food processing and preservation capacities; infrastructure for agro-processing clusters; creation of backward and forward linkages; food safety and quality assurance; and creation of human resources and institutions.
The PMKSY is expected to leverage investment of Rs 31,400 crore for handling of 334 lakh mt agro-produce valued at Rs 1,04,125 crore, benefiting 20 lakh farmers and generating 5,30,500 direct or indirect employment in the country between 2019 and 2020.
Earlier, Governor BD Mishra during a meeting with the MoS at the Raj Bhavan here requested him to help the state in setting up food processing units.
The governor explained to Teli that timely transportation of agricultural and horticultural produces is very difficult in the state due to its mountainous terrains.
“Arunachal Pradesh is leading in the production of organic food in the country. The best solution to address the issue is to set up small and medium food processing industries in different locations where agro-horti products are in surplus,” a Raj Bhavan communiqué quoted the governor as saying.
The chief minister and the industry minister were also present at the meeting, the communiqué added.