The Indian Institute of Crop Processing Technology (IICPT), Thanjavur, has planned to introduce a M.Sc. programme in food science and bio-technology from the next academic year, according to its director K. Alagusundaram.

The IICPT currently offers B.Tech, M.Tech and Ph.D programmes in food processing engineering. The M.Sc. course would be introduced once the faculty requirements were met.

The institute was also working on a plan to introduce a four-month course on agri-business supply chain management for mid-career workforce in the food processing sector after obtaining the approval of its board, Dr. Alagusundaram said, delivering the key-note address at the inaugural of a workshop-cum-training programme on Career and Business Prospects in Food Processing organised by the institute in association with the National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management at the Cauvery College for Women here on Saturday.

He also indicated that the institute could introduce a diploma course for floor-level workers for the food processing industry at a later stage. Entrepreneurs, self-help groups or individuals could rent out the institute’s incubation centre to try out their products.

The food processing sector offered enormous scope for business and employment potential. Youths should take to the sector in the big way to tap the potential of the sector he said, pointing to the huge demand-supply gap both in terms of processed food and trained manpower in the industry. There were many openings for trained youths in the sector and even the IICPT had openings for about 30 scientists but was finding it difficult to identify suitable talent.

Though the country was a leading producer of many agricultural produce, there was a huge technology gap in preserving and processing food products. The soaring prices of fruits and vegetables could be contained to a large extent if only the huge wastes were checked through appropriate technology, he observed.

The Vice Chancellor of the Bharathidasan University M. Ponnavaikko emphasised the need for turning farmers and rural youths into entrepreneurs by popularising food processing technology. With 60 per cent of the country’s workforce being dependent of agriculture there was a huge scope for agri-business and food processing technology oriented industries.

G. Kathiresan, Dean, Anbil Dharmalingam Agricultural College and Research Institute, said that though the country’s food processing industry was still at the nascent stage it had enormous growth potential given the country’s burgeoning middle income group consumer market. He emphasised on value addition in agricultural produce without loss of nutrients.

S.P. Ramanathan, Head, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Sirugamani, said the focus of the country’s agriculture sector should turn towards storage, preservation and processing. Huge wastage was one of the reasons for the spiralling price in food products.

K. Rengarajan, Secretary, Cauvery College Governing Council, called upon the government to focus on strengthening the infrastructure, including cold storages. V. Sujatha, Principal, said the food processing sector offered huge scope for growth, even better than the IT sector.

V. Ramanathan, Treasurer, Cauvery College, S. Shanmugasundaram, Scientist, IICPT, and others spoke.