The Food Processing Ministry will give priority to farmers, self-help groups and women for providing grant-in-aid in setting up food processing enterprises. It has also identified Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jammu and Kashmir for preferential treatment in financial support to set up food processing units.

Announcing this here, Food Processing Minister Subodhkant Sahai said the Ministry was setting up three boards to promote processing of fisheries, soybean and guar gum.

The Ministry planned to approach the Union Cabinet with its proposal to set up a mega food park in each State to give a boost to the sector. Already six mega food parks are in the process of being set up and bidders have been short-listed for establishing four more.

At an entrepreneurs meet here where the Minister distributed sanction letters for grants to beneficiaries, the Minister said, the “the sky was the limit'' for the growth of the food processing sector that has great potential for employment generation. Grants-in-aid to the tune of Rs. 60 crore were distributed to 200 entrepreneurs.

Food insecurity

He said as the world was passing through a ‘food insecurity' crisis, it made it all the more imperative for those interested in setting up food parks or mega food parks with the help of government to have backward and forward linkages. “Only if you involve farmers in your enterprises for your raw material requirement, will you be successful.”

Announcing a slew of measures to facilitate the food processing sector, particularly entrepreneurs, he said the Ministry would soon draw up a State-wise panel of consultants whose particulars would be posted on the Ministry's website. The consultants would help entrepreneurs to draw up detailed project reports for funds.

A helpline would be set up for free information and consultancy. Transparency would be brought in on cases in the pipeline by putting their status reports on the website. To involve states in food processing, the Ministry would set up councils in each State that would be headed by a State Minister.

Food processing industry employs an estimated 1.6 million workers and accounts for 14 per cent of the total industrial output.