New Delhi: The centre is creating the necessary infrastructure and cold chain network to reduce food waste and help farmers realize better value for their produce, food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said on Wednesday.
“The previous government approved over 42 food parks but could operationalize only two... we have removed the delays and road blocks and 12 of these are working now," Badal said, while addressing an event on the farm-to-fork ecosystem in India, organised by Mint.
On current initiatives, the minister said the government is working to reduce wastage of food by creating a cold chain grid across the country. “We have created an environment for businesses to partner with the government and help farmers," Badal said.
Infrastructure gaps in cold chain and processing facilities has led to considerable wastage of agricultural produce in India. According to a 2015 study by the Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering and Technology, Ludhiana, India’s post-harvest losses in fruits and vegetables were a staggering Rs31,500 crore. Between 7-12% of vegetable production was wasted, the study showed.
“We are attempting zero wastage of agricultural produce at farm gate, transport and storage levels... current levels of wastage are humungous for a country where millions of children are malnourished," Badal said.
Following an announcement in the budget this year, the food processing ministry is also in the process of implementing a Rs500-crore ‘operation greens’ programme to create a value chain for growers of tomato, onion and potato.
“The scheme’s goal is to help farmers get better price and ensure that consumers do not pay more," the minister said, adding, “the Kisan Sampada scheme launched by the government has schemes for everyone from large food companies to groups of farmers to set up processing units."
Processing of fruits and vegetables is critical for India due to its growing share in the agriculture production basket and recurrent price fluctuation affecting farmer incomes.
To address this problem, the centre in 2017 launched the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana (PMKSY) with a financial outlay of Rs6,000 crore for four years. The program targets to create an efficient supply chain from the farm gate to the retail outlet by creating an integrated cold chain and value addition infrastructure and expand India’s food processing and preservation capacities.
PMKSY is aiming to leverage investments over ₹ 31,400 crore, handle farm produce worth over a trillion rupees, help about 2 million farmers receive better prices and generate about half a million jobs by 2019-20, the minister said.