Think of a government-declared food park and the image of a cluster of food processing units in a variety of products will come to mind. But, Nimrani thrives majorly on flour mills.
Ideally, a food park is a cluster of upmarket food processing units having market outlets and raw material collection counters aligned to facilitate quality business and ensure profits.
But, Nimrani is a classic example of how lack of promotional schemes can turn a food park into an "exclusive" cluster of loosely "chained" flour mills. This food park, situated in western MP's Khargone district, has over half a dozen flour mills, only one dairy and a small biscuit making unit. It was set up under Centre-state government scheme in September 2001 on 68 acres of land.
In the last 13 years, it has seen only 10 units come up which is less than one unit per year. It is a poor performance by any standard in the light of the fact that the state government has been talking of promoting food industry in the agriculturally rich Madhya Pradesh for over a decade.
Besides, it shows the state government's lack of effective marketing strategy to attract more industries. "There is no promotional scheme for Nimrani food park. Government provided land, earmarked it as food park and asked Audhyogik Kendra Vikas Nigam to provide civic infrastructure," an industry source said.
The park has three big business groups which sell flour in Maharashtra, MP and Punjab. Smaller units are struggling to find market. Surrounded by farms and cut off from urban facilities, the industries in Nimrani food park have been left to fend on their own.
They have dug drains along their campus to flush away waste water which flows in nullahs laid inside food park. Besides, industries have hired people to collect garbage and keep approach roads clean.
Ideal versus reality
The basic concept behind developing food parks and mega food parks is linking villages with agriculture produce to a processing and marketing unit under one roof.
But, there are neither pre-processing raw collection counters nor marketing outlets. Even the quality check mechanism could be suspect, said industrial sources. These flour mills have their own private marketing networks to depend on, which fully demolishes the idea of food-chain marketing where right from raw material collection to processing and marketing has various quality checks.
Move around the food park and one would come across vast expanse of naturally grown grass dotted with large and medium-sized flour mills. On what basis does government declare food park in an area? What is the concept of a food park? Not many have a clear answer.
Audyogik Kendra Vikas Nigam (AKVN), Indore, a state government organ which developed the food park doesn't have the answer either. According to AKVN officials, food park concept is based on land, raw material, logistics support available.
But why Nimrani food park doesn't have chilli processing units given the fact that Khargone district is north India's leading chilli producer besides being leading producer of cotton, soybean, pulses, vegetables and wheat?
"We gave the land to whoever approached us for setting up food industry," Indore AKVN managing director Manish Singh said, adding a positive, "Food park has given employment to local people." "But at what level?" asked a flour mill manager. The employment of local people has been limited to being unskilled workers like loaders, electricians, fitters and back-office assistants.
"Nimrani has flour mills and we need people who specialise in food technology. Local people are farmers who don’t know how much gluten wheat they produce has. There is need to bridge traditional and professional knowledge," a flour mill manager said requesting anonymity.
For instance, flour mills need miller. With one milling college in Bangalore, flour mills cannot have professional millers. "To provide skill based education that meets industries’ demands requires long term planning," Parakh Agro Industries Ltd senior employee Bhagvat Chaudhary said.
Alongside the food park is Industrial Integrated Development Centre (IIDC) spread over 182 acres. Developed by AKVN, it has mostly flour mills. Food park and IIDC don't have association of industry owners.