The state government’s new food processing policy has made it mandatory for overseas and domestic investors willing to set up units in Maharashtra to procure farm produce directly from the farmers and not traders. Sources said for this, the government was ready to provide a mechanism that will facilitate direct procurement from the farmers.
The government believes the move will help farmers double farm production as well as their income, create a robust market value chain with food processing units buying vegetables and fruits directly from the farmers and stop the exploitation of farmers by traders and middlemen.
“Anybody willing to set up food processing units will have to procure vegetables and fruits from the farmers and not traders,” said Agriculture Minister Pandurang Phundkar.
The state government has received at least half-a-dozen proposals from various countries willing to invest in the food processing sector in Maharashtra. While Japan has shown interest in procuring tomatoes, Dubai has shown interest in processing vegetables. However, one of the conditions laid down by Dubai is, they would market the entire processed vegetables in Dubai.
According to a NABARD report, “Maharashtra has immense potential for food processing units. At present, 30-35 per cent of vegetables and fruits is wasted every year. And food processing is just 1.2 per cent.”
Sources said the percentage of vegetables and fruits wasted in the state was higher because of higher production and lack of infrastructure such as cold storages and processing units.
A secretary in the department of agriculture said, “The incentives on land, water and power are critical for any food processing unit. The ease of doing business coupled with highest FDI has also helped investors to look to Maharashtra in the food processing sector.” Of the total 43 mega food parks across the country, five are in Maharashtra.