It is time Indian farmers measured up to their counterparts worldwide by processing and marketing food produces by themselves, thereby bringing about inclusive growth, said K. Alagusundaram, Director, Indian Institute of Crop Processing Technology (IICPT), Thanjavur.

Though India was the richest endowed agricultural nation with 66 million hectares of irrigated land constituting one-fifth of the world's irrigated area, whopping wastage of food produces, mostly fruits and vegetables, caused due to ignorance of the farming community was costing the country up to Rs. 90,000 crore, he said.

Citing the instance of Israel where ingenious farmers in desert conditions could court prosperity with just two to three acres of land holdings, Dr. Alagusundaram felt that there was no reason why India, which could thwart famine through green revolution by taking advantage of several positive factors like availability of land and water, a stable democratic environment, independent judiciary, and vibrant media, cannot follow suit.

Potential

In the first place, a realisation must set in that there is enormous business potential in food processing. In the coming decades, farmers cannot think of confining their role as cultivators. Organised food processing activities riding on Government schemes were bound to fetch results, Dr. Alagusundaram said, delivering a lecture on ‘Business Prospects in Food Processing' organised by The Institution of Engineers (India), Tiruchi Local Centre, here on Tuesday.

With tropical climatic conditions, India was home to exotic fruits and vegetables that could be processed, packaged and exported in hygienic conditions. Meat export was another potential export area, he said. The Ministry had several programmes to provide hand-holding support to aspiring food processors to understand more about good manufacturing practices, packaging and exports. One such scheme was the large subsidy provided for setting up cold storages, he said, adding that the details could be known from the website: http://mofpi.nic.in.

As for Tiruchi region, there were opportunities for prospective entrepreneurs to venture into processing tomato and banana into infant food in an organised way. There was no basis to prove that food packaged by following the right procedures was not good for health.

The B.Tech, M.Tech and Ph.D programmes being offered by the IICPT were adapted to the plentiful requirement of human resource in the food processing sector. The Institute was in the process of tying up with overseas universities for international exposure to the candidates, Dr. Alagusundaram said.

J. Sankaran, honorary secretary of the Institution of Engineers (India), Tiruchi Local Centre, offered felicitations.