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Food processing revolution overdue for several decades: PM Modi

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Greater private investment needed in agri R&D, food processing, he says addressing a webinar on budget announcements for the farm sector

The time has come to increase the private sector participation in all areas of agricultural research and development as well as in the food processing space, according to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Addressing a webinar on Monday on budget announcements for the farm sector, he said a food processing revolution was now overdue for several decades.

“In the 21st century, in a time of increasing agricultural production, India needs a post-harvest food processing revolution, with a focus on value addition. It would have been good for the country had this been done two to three decades back,” said the Prime Minister.

In order to ensure that such a revolution takes place speedily, apart from the participation of farmers, public-private partnerships were also needed. It was critical that storage facilities and processing units were available near the fields, he said. Lakhs of existing micro-processing units needed to be equipped to expand, through handholding by Farmer Producer Organisations. “We must increase the number of agro-industry clusters near the villages, so that the people in the villages can get employment related to farming in the village itself,” he said.

Mr. Modi emphasised that the scope of this Indian food processing revolution must be global. “It is the need of the hour to ensure that our farmers get as many options as possible to market their produce. We have to integrate our agricultural produce into the global processed foods market,” he said. The Prime Minister lamented the fact that Indian fish was now processed in East Asia before reaching the international market, resulting in a loss of business opportunities for the fisheries sector in the country. Seaweed, beeswax, millets, coarse cereals and organic vegetables were the other sectors with significant potential, he said.

Mr. Modi urged the private R&D sector to go beyond the seed industry alone, and expand their focus to the whole life cycle of a crop.

He noted that contract farming had been present in the country in different forms for a long time, adding that it should not be viewed purely through the lens of business. Rather, corporates engaging in contract farming had a responsibility to bring the best facilities and technology to the country’s small farmers, said the Prime Minister.

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