A mobile processing unit was inaugurated by Ashok Sinha, secretary, Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries, at Indian Institute of Crop Processing Technology (IICPT), here on Friday.

The Rs. 21-lakh unit has been equipped with modern equipment to process fruits and vegetables. Farmers producing fruits like tomatoes can take the help of the unit to process tomato into pulp and preserve.

Mr. Sinha said during harvest season, due to sudden drop in market price, farmers either throw tomatoes in the streets or crush them in the field.

Processing and value addition would fetch the farmers a better income and ensure more tomatoes available for consumption.

The unit set up by the IICPT can be brought to the farms and rented out to farmers for making tomato purees. These purees are in demand among tomato product manufacturing companies.

The unit has equipment such as a washer to clean up the tomatoes, blancher for de-activating enzymes, pulper for converting the fruits into pulp, steam kettle and autoclave.

Mr. Sinha said farmers could know what kind of tomatoes could be preserved with the help of the unit.

"We do not want only the multi-national companies to go for value addition. Small farmers too can make use of it. Each village can have a unit of this kind," Mr. Sinha said.

Earlier, he inaugurated a national conference on career and research trends in food processing. He said modern technologies like imaging and nanotechnology should be utilised by the IICPT for research purpose.

The institute should provide leadership in food processing research to the whole country. It should ensure that farmers take to market oriented agriculture. It should have links with all institutes under Indian Council for Agricultural Research. He released a souvenir on the occasion.

He also released benchmark of food processing technology manual and CD. Ajit Kumar, Joint Secretary, Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries, received the first copy of the manual and CD.

T. Jayaraj, Director, Tamil Nadu Rice Research Institute (TRRI), Aduthurai; and A. Alagusundaram, Director, IICPT participated in the function.