Nation’s economy, according to analysts of its health, has slowed down, a feature corroborated by global monitoring and rating agencies. Food sector, more in the realm of food processing industry than in that of agriculture, is in Fast Forward (FF) mode, according to the Chief Executives of leading companies producing packaged foods under their respective flourishing brands, not to forget the large number of players doing roaring business with unbranded, but patronised by their captive consuming public across the country, including Mysuru. While the country’s food basket, zealously kept brimming to the full year after year, thanks to the sweat and toil of the agricultural workforce, is ravaged by rodents devouring standing crops overnight and insects burrowing into the core of grains rendering the produce unfit for human consumption, food processing industry has done yeomen service by transforming food grains and horticultural crops in their raw state to products that endure for several months, presenting them in packaged form, thanks to the technologies of different institutions, among which Mysuru-based Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) stands out.
Guestimates of food grains and horticultural produce suffering losses to the extent of nearly one-third of the total produced in the field should make both entrepreneurs who are already in business and those aspiring to enter the industry to sit up and invest in capital and human resources to further boost the packaged food market estimated to be worth 5.9 trillion rupees. In case they are willing, the Mysuru-based institute is all geared up to extend necessary guidance and help.
According to official sources, the country’s food products manufacturing activity grew at the rate of 14.4 per cent during April-August this year compared to same period last year. Market for processed/packaged foods wearing a smile, meaning, consumer demand for the products steadily expanding is testimony to the consumers not cutting down on food consumption the way they would do other items during the slowdown. Barring exceptions, packaged foods are priced affordably, taking into reckoning the trade off between losing agro-produce and conserving through processing. Although processed foods under various brands include edible oils, dairy products, snacks, savouries, confectionery, biscuits, the field can be wider by including traditional dishes from different regions of the country, whose number is in thousands.
Bottom line for the food processing industry is not just to meet the growing demand for packaged foods, but to work with research institutions to achieve a zero-loss of agro-produce. India’s players in the food processing sector have kept the tempo sustained, unlike other sectors, but the industry needs to move to FF mode.