The remote Dabwala Kalan village, situated about 25 km from Fazilka, came to the limelight on Saturday when union food processing industries minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and her husband and deputy chief minister of Punjab Sukhbir Singh Badal inaugurated the maiden Rs 136-crore international mega food park of the state here.
It is not only a step towards preventing the substantial wastage of food, but also to speed up the process of diversification of crops in the interest of society, particularly farmers, said Harsimrat, giving a clarion call for the establishment of more food processing units to reduce the astronomical Rs 45,000-crore food wastage in the country.
"This is just the beginning. My ministry has succeeded in promoting an international food park here by extending a subsidy of `50 crore. In the near future, you will see many more parks and food processing units coming up in the state," she said after inaugurating the park, the fourth one in the country.
"The Indian Tobacco Company (ITC) is coming up with a `1,000-crore food park in Kapurthala. At the same, they are also promoting the establishment of a cold chain for which we are giving a subsidy of `10 crore, besides creation of modern processing centres for milk, fruits and vegetables," she said.
Urging farmers to add value to their crops, she said they could also form small self help groups (SHGs) for this purpose as it is need of the hour to add value to fruits and vegetables grown in Punjab, she said.
"We need to process kinnows, tomatoes and potatoes in much larger quantities to usher in a food processing revolution in the state," she added.
She food processing was growing at 8.6% against the industrial growth rate of 6% and agriculture at 3%.
"However, much more needs to be done as we are only processing 10% of our food produce. This lack of processing is resulting in food wastage of 6 to 18% which, calculated at `45,000 crore, is equal to the total food consumed by England," she said.
Meanwhile, Sukhbir said that diversification would become a reality with the setting up of more food parks and farmers would be able to earn as much as `1 to `1.5 lakh by supplying their produce to the food parks.
He also announced that a textile unit was also likely to be set up in this belt, which would boost cotton farmers as well as the cotton industry.
Chairman-cum-managing director (CMD) of the park Sukhinder Singh said that the park, spread over 55 acres, would have facilities for processing milk and milk products besides packaging vegetables and fruits. He said the park had tied up for production and marketing with renowned companies.
The park will also create at least 700 jobs for local youth. More youngsters would be employed in the park once other companies also established their units in the facility.