Friday, October 9, 2009


Ever since independence, modernization of Indian food industry was one of the priorities of GOI with major emphasis on rice milling and dal milling, the intention being increasing the yield of edible materials through improved processing. Emphasis later shifted to import substitution with a feverish pitch and R & D organizations were mandated to evolve products and processes indigenously. It was during eighties and nineties that food industry became visible and opening up the economy brought in many global players to India, making indigenous R & D more or less irrelevant with imported technologies and plants available with out any import restrictions.

During the last 3 decades there have been cries of desperation from many stake holders regarding the unimaginary policy flip-flops, unhelpful fiscal initiatives, archaic licensing system and massive neglect of infrastructure. It is rather funny to hear from no less a person than the Prime Minister of India to repeat the same after 62 years of independence.Listen to what he said at a recent conference of state food ministers at Delhi. "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday called for strengthening research and development (R&D) in the country's food processing industry with the Central Food Technology and Research Institute (CFTRI) playing a more proactive role. While basic agricultural research has a very strong and large institutional network in the country, there is little focus on the food processing sector," It is a pity that PM was not even briefed regarding the exact name of the Institute and one wonders whether he had ever any idea of its working. What is intriguing is why he has talked only about CFTRI alone and not others who are supposed to do research on foods. What about his own brand new "baby" NIFTEM, touted as the answer for country's ills vis-à-vis food industry when it was launched a couple of years ago? A CEO has the responsibility not only to exhort his people to raise their productivity but also wield the stick on those who are shirkers.

Who is to be blamed for this sorry state of affairs? GOI, for not focusing on processing as a means of preventing food wastage, industry for not orchestrating their needs forcefully or the food scientists for their purposeless research without trying to understand what is relevant to country's needs?. It is indeed a pathetic commentary on the sad state of affairs of food R & D in the country when country's top executive says that it has not played a "pro-active" role and literally meaning that investments running to more than Rs 300 crore during the last 15 years have gone down the drain! This state of affairs is bound to continue unless those responsible are made to pay for the colossal waste of public money!

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