Tuesday, August 5, 2008


The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), the biggest organized group in the area of food has its annual jamboree every year in one or other part of USA and this year the annual convention was in New Orleans in June 2008. Association of Food Scientists and Technologists(India), more popularly known as AFST(I) is the Indian counter part with a membership estimated at 2000. In earlier years, there was some sort of a relationship between IFT and AFST(I) with an accredited member responsible for liaising between the two organizations. But at present no organizational contact exists depriving the Indian food scientists the benefit of exposure to truly international developments in the field of food processing and packing. In a world where national barriers are fast coming down, it is a pity that bilateral ties are not established with scientists' associations in countries like USA, Europe including UK, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and other Asian countries
like Japan, China both (Beijing and Taipei), Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines Korea etc, where food industry is operating with a large technological base.

Some time back Dr HAB Parpia, who retired from the UN system in 1984 after serving with distinction in the FAO and UNU tried to organize the associations and institutions in Asia and Africa into a federation for exploring a greater level of technical cooperation amongst the developing countries in the field of food science and technology. Unfortunately there were very few who could share his vision and nothing came out of his single handed efforts. As far as IFT is concerned they might still be willing to forge such useful ties if done professionally. AFST(I) needs to initiate and carry forward a dialogue to establish a meaningful relationship. It is hard to ignore the innovations taking place in the USA to day and continuous interactions will be to the benefit of the food scientists as well as the industry in India.

One is provoked to touch on this subject when a recent report from New Orleans indicated that this year's convention was attended by a consultant from Hyderabad and a bureaucrat each from Delhi and Mysore, ostensibly projecting as 'Indian Delegation'. It is not clear whether they were sponsored officially and funded by the Government or it was a private trip. If it is an official delegation as the report says, what the nation has achieved will remain a mystery as sharing of information is a rare phenomenon in such cases. There appears to have been some presentation by the 'delegation' at a get together of a local Indian group apparently retelling the Indian situation which any how the audience was already aware of. It is a bane of Indian science in general that youngsters are never provided opportunities to rub shoulders with their peers in such gatherings as in IFT convention, most of the public funds cornered by the same tired old faces with which
everybody is familiar. Cant we think of sending young, fresh and capable food scientists, available in plenty in the country in Universities and Institutions who will have to shoulder future responsibilities in fostering food science and technology in the country? Presence of 25-30 scientists in such international gatherings is bound to project the strength of the country in the food front attracting investments automatically. How much cost the country has to bear for such a program? Less than a crore of rupees which is worth every rupee spent. Ministry of Food Processing Industry (MFPI) is well known for squandering money on unproductive programs with practically no impact and surrender a significant portion of the allocation amounting to crores of rupees at the end of the year due to poverty of ideas for fruitful projects and heart-breaking bureaucratic procedural wrangles.

What India has done in IT should be repeated in food technology also and there is no dearth of talents in the country for achieving discernible results within a short time, provided there is a will to do. It is not surprising that IIT undergraduates in India, yet to finish their academic programs are accepted by IT giants in the USA as interns by meeting business class air fares and luxury living standards in that country, though for a limited period, They probably know that they are investing in future manpower requirements by undertaking such programs.This is happening because IT sector is highly visible and the strengths of our IT capability is well known to major International players. Indian Food Technology also needs exposures in a big way and this can happen only in such international forums as IFT conventions and other industrial-technological meetings.

It is true that AFST(I) also holds international conventions (IFCON) every four years since 1988 but it hardly attracts any genuine scientists from abroad as established peers need time and financial resources to come all the way to India. Bad planning, undue delays in program design, late invitations and under provided budgets can be cited as reasons for renowned food scientists not able to participate in IFCONs. More over, the penchant for organizing this event in Mysore, not ideally located for international travelers to reach and some what limited infrastructure for holding the event do not help to realize the full potential of IFCONs. Here again absence of or limited support, by the MFPI is a major factor for the under performance of IFCONs in the past. One can only hope that the forth coming IFCON in December 2008 at Mysore will fare better as the organizers are planning raising criers of rupees to truly internationalize this event. AFST(I) should
have the vision to make such events truly international by attracting at least 10% of the delegates from other countries around the world and this will give our young food scientists abundant opportunities to listen , interact and broaden their knowledge to unprecedented levels.


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