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Land near Choithram mandi likely site

THE SIX-MEMBER core committee constituted to create a road map for setting up country?s first accelerator-based irradiation pilot plant in the City has identified five locations for the project.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2006 13:46 IST

THE SIX-MEMBER core committee constituted to create a road map for setting up country’s first accelerator-based irradiation pilot plant in the City has identified five locations for the project.

Nevertheless, the core committee and administration are likely to settle for three-acre land near Choithram vegetable mandi at a meeting of Agriculture, Horticulture and Cooperative Department Secretaries to be held here on April 18.

Once the three department secretaries, Divisional Commissioner Ashok Das and scientists from Dr Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT) among others clear the site, the Horticulture Department will hold a training programme for farmers on cost benefits of irradiation.

The pilot plant, which is expected to become operational by Diwali this year, will gradually cover needs of about 50,000 small and marginal farmers of Indore and Ujjain division.

Apart from RRCAT, district administration has evinced keen interest in the project keeping in view that Indore has been declared an agricultural export zone in State industrial policy. To be equipped with international air cargo facility and an international airport, Indore holds the strategic position as a corridor between north and south.

On an average, Indore division produces 12 lakh tonne of potato, 3 lakh tonne of onion, 56,000 tonne of garlic, 60,000 tonne of chilies, 344886 tonne of wheat and gram and 30,000 tonne of carrot annually.

Being an equally rich producer of flowers, fruits and medicinal herbs, the City stands a fair chance to emerge as major agro exporter. The irradiation plant will provide major thrust to its business prospects as 35 countries have agreed to import Indian produce if irradiated.

The interest in irradiation of agro and food products is emerging world over due to persistent high food loss from infestation, contamination and spoilage. A mounting concern over food-borne diseases and growing international trade that must meet stiff import standards of quality and quarantine has made the process imperative.

According to an estimate, 40 countries have approved 120 irradiated food items for human consumption and 31 countries for commercial purpose.

Irradiation, which is the cheapest post-harvest management technology for food preservation, will revolutionise agricultural economics if implemented effectively.

The technology will empower farmers to control and demand the cost of their produce, as it will increase the shelf life of their products, prevent germination and destroy harmful bacteria settled on them. The process will end the role of middlemen and keep cost fluctuations in check throughout the year.

As for the cost benefit, farmers will be required to pay 10 paise to Rs 2 per kg for irradiated items. Potatoes, for instance, can be preserved at 15 degree Celsius, which doesn’t allow its sugar content to escalate. The cost of potato storage, at present, is Rs 2 crore for 5000 tonne while operational cost of cold storage is Rs 15-18 lakh. Irradiation will save on both.

The technology can do equal wonders for fruits. It can delay ripening of banana and papaya for 15 days without harming the nutritive value.

Finally, the proposed expertise will curb government losses. On an average, the country wastes 30 per cent of fruits and vegetables worth Rs 28,810 crore and 10 per cent foodgrains worth Rs 10,000 crore annually due to lack of post harvest management techniques.