During a session on agri business and food processing as part of the two-day Progressive Punjab Summit, top officials of the Punjab government asked the food processing industry to give a better deal to farmers and to follow the Contract Farming Act in letter and spirit.
The industry was also urged to follow the procedures laid in the Punjab Contract Farming Act, 2011, so that rights of the farmers are protected and the farming community is not fleeced by big companies.
“Why 1 kg potato is procured from a farmer at Rs 10 while processed potato is being sold at Rs 150 and more. There is a need to lay bare the whole process,” questioned additional chief secretary Suresh Kumar, who heads the Punjab agriculture department.
Responding to this, Pepsico India executive director Vivek Bharti said a lot of efforts and input cost go into food processing. “We are not operating on 500 per cent margins but on a thin margin of 5 per cent,” he claimed.
“Instead of implementing the Contract Farming Act, Pepsoico believes in a long-term relationship with farmers,” Bharti said.
Suresh Kumar urged the food processing industry to suggest amendments in the act said it must follow the procedures of the act per se.
Rs 8,000 crore committed
After deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal announced zero tax on new food processing units in Punjab, as many as 55 investors from across the country and abroad committed Rs 8,000 crore investment by signing memorandums of understanding (MoUs) in the presence of Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
The Union minister said Punjab, popularly known as the food bowl of India, contributes more than 40% of central pool of wheat, 26% of the central procurement of rice, 75% production of kinnows and oranges, and 7.5% of total milk production.
“Despite overall slump in the market, the agro industry is growing at 8.5% and the growth rate would go up further,” she said.
Punjab agriculture minister Tota Singh, agriculture secretary Kahan Singh Pannu, Cargill Siraj chairman A Chaudhary, Akshay Bector of Bector Food and Nestle India senior vice-president Sanjay Khajooria were present on the occasion.
India suffered Rs 92,000 cr food wastage
According to a study conducted by the Union food processing ministry, food waste in the country stood at a whopping Rs 92,000 crore in 2014-15.
“To save the country from this loss we need to develop food processing industry as smaller countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia where more than 80% of total food grown is processed while it is only 10% in India,” she informed.