Having decided in principle to constitute an Integrated Market Organisation to produce, process and market high value fruits and vegetables, Punjab Cooperation Department has now launched a major exercise to persuade Centre to set up the first food park in the state.
Under its multi-pronged strategy to encourage crop diversification, the Cooperation Department has also cleared the decks to set up an ultra modern food processing and cold storage complex in Ludhiana. Export quality products would be prepared in this food-processing unit, especially from the fruits and vegetables to be produced in the proposed Food Park.
In this connection Punjab Cooperation Minister Captain Kanwaljit Singh met Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia in Delhi on Friday and would meet Union Food Processing minister next week to further plead the case of Punjab to speed up the process of launching food park somewhere in central Punjab.
Speaking to HT, Captain Kanwaljit said, "We are bidding for one food park and will shortly submit a detailed project report to the Centre. The Union government has planned to set up five food parks in various states within this year. The response of Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Ahluwalia is very sympathetic in view of Punjab's contribution in the field of agriculture and the crisis our farmers have been facing due to rising debt and suicides. In fact being an agrarian state we have a legitimate right to get necessary help from the Centre to set up food park."
With main thrust on pulling the farmers from their excessive reliance on wheat-paddy rotation, the Cooperation Department has evolved a strategy to involve the cooperative societies--under Integrated Market Organisation-in producing high value crops like fruits and vegetables for consumers within and outside the country.
A professionally managed Special Purpose Vehicle is being set up for better marketing of the crop. Under this programme the department will engage experts to give technical guidance to the farmers.
"The farmers," Captain Kanwaljit said, "will get assured price of their product which would be exported to Central Aisa, Middle East etc. We are trying to make food processing plant in Ludhiana operational as quickly as possible as it will play a major role in our initiative of encouraging crop diversification."
Apart from this, the yet another thrust area of Cooperation Department is to increase milk production and marketing of milk products. The Minister said, "We want to exploit the goodwill being enjoyed by our Verka brand. Planning Commission has prepared a plan for promotion of dairy industry and we want to grab this opportunity."
The cooperation department has drawn up a comprehensive plan to promote commercial dairy farming and improve the availability of milk in urban areas. "Our first goal is to increase milk availability from 750 gram to 1000 gram per head in a short span. As a long-term measure we have sought financial allocation from the Centre for the promotion of commercial dairy farming. The Planning Commission has asked us to submit a detailed plan for approval in this regard," the Minister informed.