Food processing refers to the transformation of raw ingredients into food or transformation of food into other forms for consumption by humans or animals. Food processing transforms the harvested agricultural or butchered animal products into attractive marketable products with longer shelf life. Pickles, oil mills, potato chips, soft drinks, fruit juices, jam and jellies, milk products etc are the examples of food processing industry. A packet of potato chips in the market with a price tag of Rs.10 contains less than 100 grams of potato. Potato chips industry is not an exception but in most of food processing industries like pickles, soft drinks, fruit juices, etc more or less similar margin exists.
Thus one can surmise the amount of value addition can be done through food processing. History of food processing industry is as old as the origin of agriculture and in ancient times food was processed through crude technique like sun drying, fermenting, preserving with salt etc. Crude processing techniques remain in vogue until the advent of industrial revolution. Food processing industry is not limited to agro products but also includes in its ambit the marine and animal husbandry products as well.
The food processing industry provides vital linkages and synergies between industry and agriculture. The Food Processing Industry sector in India is one of the largest in terms of production, consumption, export and growth prospects. The government has accorded it a high priority, with a number of fiscal reliefs and incentives, to encourage commercialization and value addition to agricultural produce, for minimizing pre/post harvest wastage, generating employment and export growth. India's food processing sector covers a wide range of products fruit and vegetables; meat and poultry; milk and milk products, alcoholic beverages, fisheries, plantation, grain processing and other consumer product groups like confectionery, chocolates and cocoa products, Soya-based products, mineral water, high protein foods and so on.
Food processing is an employment intensive sector and in India this industry is yet to develop to its potential. Since more than 50 percent of work force still depends on the primary sector for its livelihood, food processing industry can become instrumental in increasing the income of the vast population engaged in agricultural activities.
The major benefits of food processing sector includes:
1)Helps to store perishable and semi-perishable agricultural commodities, avoid glut in the market, check post harvest losses and make the produce available during off-season. A huge chunk of agriculture produce in India is lost due to poor storage of post harvest products, this industry can curb those losses.
2)The sector is highly employment intensive and therefore much relevant in Indian scenario.
3)Food processing ensures the availability of many products out of the season as we can see the availability of green peas all the year round in frozen form though they are cultivated in winters only.
4)It increases the shelf life of perishable goods and thus make them conducive for transportation across long distances. Thus the industry makes the agroproducts ready for exports and helps in earning the foreign exchange.
5)The sector also makes the food safer for consumption by checking the pathogens and other micro organisms which may be harmful for health.
6)Modern food processing also improves the quality of living by way of healthy foods developed for allergics, diabetics, and other people who cannot consume some common food elements. When diabetics, cardio vascular diseases are on rise in India, such products become more relevant and can provide essential food supplement.
7)Apart from being labour intensive, the industry can also started with low capital and therefore presents great opportunity for the small entrepreneurs. This nature of sector makes it ideal tool to curb the rising inequalities in the country. Since its raw material consists of agriculture produce, therefore rural areas are more favourable for the location of such industries. In this manner, industry will also be helpful in bridging the rural urban divide apart from curbing the overall regional inequalities.
8)Modern food processing also improves the quality of living by way of healthy
foods developed for allergic, diabetics, and other people who cannot consume some common food elements
India is one of the largest food producer in the world and has diverse agro-climatic conditions, a diverse and large raw material base suitable for food processing companies. Apart from this, following factors make this industry ideal for growth in India:
1)A largely untapped domestic market of 1000 million consumers
2)300 million upper and middle class consume processed food
3)Well developed infrastructure and distribution network
4)Rapid urbanization, increased literacy, changing life style, increased
number of women in workforce, rising per capita income- leading to rapid
growth and new opportunities in food and beverages sector
5)Strategic geographic location (proximity of India to markets in Europe and
Far East, South East and West Asia)
India’s $182billion food processing industry has been growing at over 13 percent despite the global slowdown. And now the government is aiming to double the turnover in the next five or six years by setting up mega food parks to attract global capital.. In view of the potential benefits, this industry can generate, The Government has introduced several schemes to provide financial assistance for setting up and modernizing of food processing units, creation of infrastructure, support for research and development and human resource development in addition to other promotional measures to encourage the growth of the processed food sector.
The national policy on food processing aims at increasing the level of food processing to 25 per cent by 2025. The government has allowed 100 per cent FDI in processing sector.
Despite being the fourth largest economic power of the world, India is facing the scourge of poverty, unemployment, rising inequalities etc. The very nature of food processing industry provides an answer to such problems but there are many obstacle in the development of this sector like low storage capacity, power supply crunch, unskilled manpower, availability of fiancés etc.
Indeed the food processing industry is a sunrise industry growing in double digits but the sustainability of this growth depends whether government is able to improve the infrastructure, provide skilled human resource fuel that growth. Given the requisite facilities and finance, India do have the potential to become the food factory of the world.
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