Almost 30 per cent of the fruits and vegetables produced by farmers is wasted following lack of food processing units across Maharashtra. The state with a processing capacity of one lakh metric tonnes has failed to exploit the surplus vegetables and fruits produced in local markets following infrastructure shortage namely cold storage and processing units and up-gradation of technical know how to enhance the varieties of white onion, tomatoes and winery grapes.
A senior officer in the ministry of agriculture revealed to Indian Express, “Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis held a meeting with officials of NABARD and agriculture and horticulture departments to work out a concrete plan to promote the food processing sector in state.” The state is all set to make additional provisions to promote the public-private-partnership model to boost food processing and marketing sectors across state.
Fadnavis said, “We will make a coordinated effort to promote the food processing industry which has a major potential to generate employment through small scale sectors. The emphasise on value chain is also to ensure farmers get better remuneration and also benefits the consumers.”
According to the data furnished by government only 1.2 per cent of the fruits and vegetables are processed. While 70 per cent of the fruits and vegetables are consumed which are marketed as fresh there is a huge wastage of 30 per cent. The bulk of vegetables and fruits which goes as waste has the potential to provide for the food processing sector.
The main crops that are available in state for primary and secondary processing includes grapes, pomegranates, cashew and mangoes, oranges.
Sources revealed, “While discussing the state’s road map ahead for 2015-16, pertaining to food processing industry, stress was laid on upgrading the technical know-how to the farmers to encourage them to produce variety of fruits and vegetables which are essential for processing industry and withstand the competitive market in the sector.” It was suggested that fruits, pulp juice and concentrate units can be set up in MIDC industrial areas.
It is felt there is a potential for setting up of processing units for tomato, onion, cabbage okra, cauliflower etc.
Sources in the ministry of finance admitted, “ While there is a massive market for food processing in Maharashtra the primary concern relates to investment. As fruits and vegetables are perishable items the returns have been low which often dissuades the private players in the sector.”
The chief minister has assured that state will avail the centre’s scheme which has huge budgetary provision under various schemes to promote food processing unit. The centre has spelled out the plans for mega-food parks. Currently, the state has planned five food parks worth Rs 406 crore .
However, government reckons there are some serious shortcomings which have been detrimental for boosting the processing sector and corrective steps needs to be taken urgently.
While recognising that the investment in the sector should be on PPP model, it admits green houses, cold storage and ware house facilities cannot be overlooked.