Food Processing Industry News From around the World.

Centre relaxes norms, Basmati rice exports likely to rise

The Central Government relaxed the export parameters for basmati rice, which will help farmers in Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir.

“Grain of rice to be exported shall be more than 6.61 mm of length and ratio of length-to-breadth of the grain shall be more than 3.5 mm," the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) said in a notification.

Earlier, only basmati rice of more than 7 mm-length and a length-to-breadth ratio of more than 3.6 mm was permitted to be exported. “The relaxation on dimension of the grain will help growers of Ranbir and Basmati-370 varieties of the rice that is primarily grown in Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand,” All-India Rice Exporters Association President Vijay Sethia said. Production of these two varieties is estimated at 50,000 tonnes annually.

Further, it is also expected that large basmati rice buyers in the Gulf region may now start buying more from India as the recent floods in Pakistan have severely hit the agriculture activity there.

According to market analysts, such a situation augurs well for the Indian basmati rice exporters as they would be able to serve the continually increasing demand for basmati from West Asia, the US and the UK which have been importing from Pakistan.


India has 5,386 cold storages

In a written a reply to the Rajya Sabha, KV Thomas, minister of state for agriculture, said that the country had about 5,386 cold storages so far. "Uttar Pradesh accounts for the maximum of 1,579," he told the House.

West Bengal was at the second place with 531 cold storages. It was followed by Maharashtra (460) and Punjab (420).

Responding to a question from Parvez Hashmi, Rajya Sabha MP, Thomas said that the government was providing assistance through various schemes for construction of more cold storages.


Rising oilseeds sowing may drop edible oil imports

The increasing kharif sowing, particularly oilseeds in the country, is likely to moderate the dependence on imported oil in the current year.

According to the official data of the agriculture ministry, the area under kharif oilseeds crop as on August 19, 2010, showed an increase of about 4 lakh hectares during the week and was reported at 161.40 compared to 153.19 lakh tonnes at the same time of the last year.

The upbeat kharif sowing statistics in India was likely to moderate the dependence on imported oil in the current year.

The agriculture ministry also informed that the area under groundnut had increased to 48.01 lakh hectares compared to 37.14 lakh hectares during the corresponding period last year.

In Andhra Pradesh, the groundnut sowing was sharply increased to 13.17 hectares compared to 5.21 lakh hectares last year. Soyabean acreage in the key growing region of Madhya Pradesh had increased but marginally. The acreage had surged by 2.8 lakh hectares; however Maharashtra showed negative growth.


55 food processing units to come up in Orissa

The government of Orissa has sanctioned around 110 acres of land to set up 55 industrial units for the proposed food processing park at Malipada in Khurda district.

According to a report in Business Standard, the state has also planned to develop a mega food park at Khurda and the proposal is under the consideration of the Government of India.

"The food processing park would be developed on 162 acres of land. The state government has already allotted 110 acres to 55 units. It will invest Rs 9.9 crore on infrastructure developments for this food park and out of this Rs 1.91 crore has already been deposited with the Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation of Orissa (Idco)," state industries minister Raghunath Mohanty said..

The proposed food park project has the potential to attract investments of Rs 2,000 crore. Further, the state government was mulling to form a special purpose vehicle (SPV) with Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS), one of India's leading infrastructure development companies, for this purpose.

The government had roped in IL&FS as a consultant to help boost investments in the food processing sector. Tenders for this project were likely to be invited soon.


Six vital schemes driving India's food processing industries

The ministry of food processing industries (Mofpi) has been implementing various plan schemes for promotion and development of the food processing sector.

In a written reply to the Lok Sabha, Subodh Kant Sahai, food processing minister, said, there are about six important schemes under Mofpi, namely Scheme for infrastructure development with major components i.e. mega food park, cold chain, modernisation of abattoirs and value added centres, scheme for setting up of technology up-gradation/modernisation/expansion of food processing, scheme for quality assurance, codex standards and R&D, scheme for human resource development, scheme for strengthening of institution and a scheme for upgradation of quality of street food.

"All implementing agencies engaged in setting up/expansion/modernisation of food processing industries covering all segments are eligible for financial assistance. The implementing agencies include central/state government organisations, PSUs/NGOs/Co-operative societies and private sector units and individuals," he informed the House.

"The funds are allocated scheme-wise which are project-oriented in the country. No separate funds are earmarked to states and voluntary organisations," he added.


Govt projects Rs 1 lakh crore investment in food processing

The ministry of food processing industries has projected investments to the tune of Rs 1 lakh crore during the 12th Plan period to increase the country's food processing capacities. While Rs 10,000 crore is expected to come from government agencies and venture capital firms, the remaining amount would come from entrepreneurs. "The country is able to process only 10% of all the food produced. The government is attempting to increase this capacity by another 10 percentage points. In order to achieve this, we need investments of Rs 1 lakh crore," said K Rajeswara Rao, joint secretary, ministry of food processing industries.

Addressing the inaugural of a national workshop of executive development programmes in food processing at the National Institute for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (NIMSME) here on Friday, he said the country lost Rs 55,000 crore annually because of lack of sufficient food processing facilities. "If we could increase our processing capacities to 20 %, we could save Rs 10,000 crore. Besides, the industry gives a return of about 20% to the entrepreneurs," he said.


FDI in FP grows by 175%

Minister for food processing industries Subodh Kant Sahai has confirmed that foreign direct investment (FDI) in the food processing sector witnessed a 175 % during 2009-10 to $279.33 million. Sahai was addressing the Rajya Sabha when he informed that in 2008-2009 foreign inflows were $102.64 million.

“The inflow of FDI in food processing sector had increased from $102.64 million to $279.33 million (in 2009-10), which was a 175 % growth," Sahai said.

The minister said that the food processing sector had benefited with innovative technologies, and improved quality of products because of foreign funds.

"FDI is expected to bring new products, improved quality and new technology in the food processing sector, resulting in higher employment, and reduction in wastage of agri-products," the minister said.


Centre increases sugar stockholding limit

The central government has decided to increase the stockholding limit for bulk consumers of sugar from 15 days to 90 days for a further period of 180 days.

This decision has been taken in view of the availability and prices of sugar in the domestic and international markets. It will ensure availability of sugar in the ensuing festival season.

A recent study commissioned by the Indian Sugar Industry has estimated that over 60% of the non-levy (free sale) sugar sold in the market was consumed by the non-household (commercial) sector. Out of this, over 50% was the share of the confectionery, beverage, hotel etc. industries, which were called bulk consumers.

The central government with a view to encourage bulk consumers to buy less of domestic sugar and import more sugar for meeting their requirements imposed stockholding limit on them stipulating that they shall not hold stocks exceeding 15 days of their requirement from domestically produced sugar, vide notification dated May 18, 2010. The validity of this notification was due to expire on August 18, 2010


Skill shortage affects the Indian food industry

India’s domestic food market is projected to grow heavily from the current level of US$ 181 billion to US$ 258 billion in 2015, but now the rising demand for specific skills and available supply has eroded the competitiveness of the industry, says a new FICCI study. The FICCI survey reveals that irrespective of the firm size, there would be a huge demand for skilled professionals, both at the higher end technical skills and lower end skills.

In a pan-India survey, FICCI received responses from 250 companies across the entire food value chain. The responses are not very charming for the workforce. Some important findings are that for 72% of the food companies, the staff lacks ability to use modern tools. And 66% find the workforce lacks the ability to deliver work on time in accordance with the quality standards.

Besides these skill problems, these is a huge and increasing demand for skilled professionals. Be it for Production Managers & Engineers, where a demand increase of 46% alone in 2010 was found. Similar high increases were made out for Quality Control and R&D specialists (52%) and others like supply chain specialists and regulatory & legal experts. Similar high demand for floor technicians, refrigeration mechanics etc.

The expected increase over a period of 5 years is highest for marketing and sales personnel, a forecasted 150% for companies with not more than 100 employees, and 160% for companies with a staff size between 100 and 500 employees.

The shortage of Quality and R&D specialists is seen by FICCI as one of the major bottlenecks hampering new product development and innovation in the food processing industry. Quality and R&D as well as regulatory and legal affairs are the functional areas where the maximum skill shortage in the sector is seen.

Regarding the educational institutions, 35% of the respondents still believe that the courses offered at various institutions are outdated, not regularly revised and lack industry orientation. The survey reveals also that 79% of the companies offer formal training to their employees, though the period of training varied from industry to industry, according to its size. There would be a significant percentage of companies irrespective of the size offering training programs of more than 600-1200 hrs duration.

FICCI is also providing some recommendations to cope with the skill problems. Among them are revising the curricula, establishing a body to monitor all institutions offering courses in food processing, adoption of ITI’s (Industrial Training Institutes) by the food processing industry in various clusters across the country to upgrade the lower end skills.

Accelerate food production - private investment: Pawar

There is a need to accelerate India's food grain production to meet the growing demand of the population, and that all in times of new challenegs by climate change. This has to be achieved through vertical expansion with the use of science and technology. This was stated by Shri Sharad Pawar, the Minister of Agriculture, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, when addressing the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) awards ceremony recently.

“Though we have over these years brought about a qualitative improvement in agricultural research and extension systems, I must admit that much more needs to be done, both in terms of pure research and in terms of quality and effectiveness of our rural extension services. Climate change and its impact on Indian agriculture has thrown new challenges for our agricultural researchers and scientists", the Minister said. Various research centres across the country would be actively working on developing drought resistant varieties of seed and other plant management methods to mitigate the expected production loss due to rising temperatures.

The Minister sees also a greater role for the private sector. Private investment in high technology areas in agriculture should go hand in hand with the public funded research and public/state funded seed production programmes in taking Indian agriculture to the next level. To tackle the complexities of Indian agriculture, the Minister stressed on a focused, inter-sectoral approach, covering all dimensions, so that we can achieve the required growth rates in a short time span.