Maize in focus as food processing sector gets major push


As part of a drive to make food processing a mass movement, a 123.7-crore mega food park with focus on maize processing is being built in Kapurthala district of Punjab. The park, which will be set up in an area of 55 acres, is expected to provide direct and indirect employment to 5,000 people and benefit about 25,000 farmers. Earlier, the permission to set up a mega food park was denied because the district was declared a ‘dark zone’ because of slow desertification and over-exploitation of water due to cash crops.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal in Phagwara.

“Since this would be a maize-based mega food park, (it) will promote crop diversification and water conservation,” said Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal. “Special efforts been made to get the necessary approval from the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.”

The park, which is being developed by Sukhjit Mega Food Park and Infra Limited at village Rehana Jattan, will boost job opportunities and environment conservation. The project, as per the minister, will leverage an additional investment of about 250 crore in 25-30 food processing units in the park and generate turnover of 450-500 crore annually.

The new project is also expected to rescue the cold chain sector of the country. According to a 2015 study titled “Assessment of Quantitative Harvest and Post-Harvest Losses of Major Crops and Commodities in India” by the Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR)-Central Institute of Post-Harvest Engineering and Technology (CIPHET), Ludhiana, the apathy towards the sector resulted in inadequate capacity addition. Harsimrat-led Ministry of Food Processing Industry, however, is working on the gaps the report had highlighted.

The first maize-based park, which will get a grant of 50 crore by Union Food Processing Industries Ministry for multipurpose cold storage of 3,000 metric tonnes, Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) and Deep Freezer 1 metric tonne/hour capacity, sorting and grading yard of 2,000 sqm and Food Testing Lab.

Besides, the promoter is also setting up an Anchor Unit with an investment of 105 crore for maize processing with an installed grinding capacity of 500 tonnes a day. The goal, according to the minister, is to make maize the third viable staple crop of Punjab after wheat and rice.

Harsimrat has also appealed to the Punjab farmers to take advantage of various ministerial schemes to establish own units, form mini clusters or become a part of mega food parks under the SAMPADA as well as other schemes of the Ministry. The Ministry is aiming to double the farmers’ income in next three years, and the Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters (SAMPADA) which will see an investment of 6,000 crore to give impetus to food processing, will play a major role in this, she said.

“My priority is to help small farmer become an entrepreneur in his own right by adding value to farm produce,” Harsimrat said, adding that the government is also working on empowering women in the sector.

“Keeping this in mind, I have started from the base level by helping farmers or clusters of farmers to make Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO). A company has been specially hired for this purpose. The company will not only help in filling up various applications but also hand-hold the farmer organisations for two years to enable them to produce and market their products effectively,” she said at a recent event at the Confederation of Indian Industry to promote World Food India fair being held in Delhi from November 3 to 5.