Punjab food and civil supplies minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon stressed on Sunday the need for bringing about a revolution in the food processing sector for the survival of farming in the state.
“Food grain production has reached its zenith now. The time has come for providing support to the agricultural community by setting up food processing units all over the state,” he said while talking to Hindustan Times.
Kairon, who heads the newly established food processing department, felt that there were gains both for the farmers and entrepreneurs in food processing. The farmers could receive better prices for agricultural commodities, particularly vegetables, fruit and dairy products like milk, while entrepreneurs could gain by producing quality products through processing, he added.
The minister pointed out that the state government had come out with special incentives to encourage food processing. In this context, he said, those setting up agro processing units would not be levied market fee or purchase tax at the time of purchase of agricultural commodity for their units.
Kairon pointed out that good quality wheat available in abundance in Punjab could be processed into biscuits, bread and other products.
He said that processors of branded wheat flour would not have to pay market fee and purchase tax when they go to purchase wheat from the 'mandis' of the state or directly from the farmers.
Pointing out that PUSA-1121 variety had brought about a revolution in basmati cultivation in the state, he said that quality shelling units needed to come up and tax benefits would be given for the same.
“A lot of our vegetables and fruit go waste or rot in the mandis. If we have units to process these into juices, pickles, chips and other items, it will come as a boon to the farmers and help break the wheat-paddy cycle,” he added.
Kairon felt that agro processing would help in diversification, as farmers would readily go for cultivation of fruit and vegetables which have a ready market rather than just wheat and paddy.
He pointed out that there was a lot of scope for processing of kinnows in the state as currently the fruit was sold as such in the market, and growers often suffered losses.