The first one-day Punjab AgriFood Conclave was held at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) in Ludhiana Wednesday.
Speaking during the inaugural session, PAU vice-chancellor Dr BS Dhillon said that food processing industry and crop diversification are facing several challenges in Punjab. “Inadequate availability of raw material, inadequate post-harvest infrastructure, inadequate research and development by processing industry, fragmented value chains and policy distortions are some of the challenges that food processing industry is facing in Punjab,” said Dhillon.
He also said that PAU has been continuously developing some food processing techniques to promote cultivation of fruits and vegetables but the real challenge lies in their adoption by farmers and other stakeholders. “We are developing several techniques to promote crop diversification so that farmers come out of wheat-paddy cycle. But the real challenge is their adoption. Not many farmers are adopting them because it is difficult for them to come out of wheat-paddy cycle as still there are many challenges. On one hand we are asked to push crop diversification and at the same time, we are given the wheat and paddy production cultivation targets to be met each year. So how can we expect that farmers will abandon wheat-paddy,” said V-C.
He also called for developing strong linkages between PAU and industry for strengthening of food processing sector. The conclave was inaugurated by Punjab industry and commerce minister Sham Sunder Arora who said that Punjab which till now is known as ‘Food Bowl of India’ will soon be known as ‘Food Processing Hub of India’ too.
“Soon Punjab will be the food processing hub of the country. From the largest producer, it will be the largest processor too. A high tech manufacturing cluster at Ludhiana and an integrated manufacturing cluster is being built at Rajpura apart from three mega food parks at Ladhowal, Phagwara and Fazilka. Punjab has total cultivable area of 4.2 million hectares. It produces 19 per cent of wheat in India, 10 per cent rice, 10 per cent milk, 20 per cent honey, 48 per cent mushroom and 5 per cent cotton with just 3 per cent of net sown area in the country,” he said.
PepsiCo and ITC Limited to expand operations in Punjab
The conclave which was was jointly organized by the Department of Industries and Commerce, Punjab; Confederation of Indian Industry and PAU also saw the participation of several food processing companies’ representatives including ITC, PepsiCo, Cremica among others. PepsiCo and ITC announced that they would be expanding their operations in Punjab in agro-food processing.
Rinkesh Satija from PepsiCo India that they would be investing in snacks manufacturing units in Punjab. He said the need of the hour is to provide cold storage infrastructure and develop more potato varieties for processing. Sanjay Singhal from ITC Limited said that the company has launched new juices products and biscuits and soon they are also going to invest in dairy sector in Punjab. He also suggested enhancing the production and processing of fruits and vegetables in Punjab.
Bhavdeep Sardana from Sukhjit Starch & Chemicals Limited called for increase in maize production and processing in Punjab. Akshay Bector of Cremica Food Industries Limited added that abolishing of truck unions in Punjab is a welcome step.