Monday, November 26, 2012


Here is a quote from the Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar recently: "food processing is growing more than agri and manufacturing sectors, turning farmers into entrepreneurs. If there is one sector that has been growing faster than agriculture as well as manufacturing sectors, has the potential to create jobs in the rural areas, bridge the gap between the price paid by the consumer and that received by the farmer and create value addition and earn foreign exchange by export of value-added farm produce, it is the Food Processing Sector," "In addition, this sector does not only remain a bridge between farmers and entrepreneurs, it converts the farmer into an entrepreneur," A well "written" speech containing all the glib words in the dictionary related to food, without actually meaning any thing to millions of people in this poor country, who have been hearing these sentiments during the last 6 decades but nothing happening at the ground level!

Guess when and where such a knowledgeable minister made this grandiose statement? He was speaking after inaugurating National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM), claiming to be a world-class institution in food processing sector, at Kundli, Haryana. It is imperative for all right thinking persons in this country to ponder on the words uttered by this minister because a look back at the step-motherly attitude shown by successive governments in Delhi ever since the independence of this country, makes the pompous declaration sound hollow. The minister seems to be under the impression that setting up a 5-star bureaucratic institution under the fanciful name of NIFTEM would solve all the problems faced by the food processing industry in this country. For those who have been espousing the cause of food industry during the last 5 decades may wonder whether they should cry or laugh at these ministerial pronouncements with no sincerity and commitment.

It is very true that the food industry has huge potential to be developed in India and there exist formidable challenges in the form of grossly under developed infrastructure, unsatisfactory food quality and safety environment, lack of trained manpower at all levels, lousy food laws, great vulnerability of small scale and micro-enterprises to industrial sickness, uncertain marketing environment and above all government tendency to impose multiple financial levies on food raw materials as well as processed products. The organizers of NIFTEM seem to be in cloud nine, imagining (or self deceiving?) that their pet project would solve all the problems of farmers as well the processing industry! It is sweet to hear from a senior minister of Union Cabinet that NIFTEM would provide a "one-stop solution" to the industry! How can Government of India claim that an infant institution that was just inaugurated would do all the work mandated to it like developing managerial talent, advancement of food science and technology, creation of a repository of knowledge on all facets of food processing, conducting frontier area research, etc, etc, etc for meeting the needs of a huge food industry consisting of millions of micro-enterprises and small industries spread across this vast country? 

Has the government of India forgotten the fate of a similar effort way back in 1950 when late C.Rajagopalachari, the first Governor General of independent India inaugurated the currently "limping" Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) at Mysore echoing practically same sentiments as expressed by the Agriculture Minister when he dedicated NIFTEM to the nation recently. With what face GOI will convince the nation that NIFTEM will succeed where CFTRI is supposed to have failed? Has any independent commission or evaluation group ever investigated the cause of the supposed failure of CFTRI? If this was not done what guarantee is there that NIFTEM will not go the same way as CFTRI? Does GOI believe that association with an American University would make NIFTEM a glowing success? Why not understand the basic truth that America cannot solve Indian food industry problems for which only indigenous solution has to be found.

Coming to CFTRI, this august organization had also foreign association with FAO, United Nations University and many other international agencies at one time or the other but still this did not make it an enduring institution in the eyes of citizens as well the industry in the country. Looking back one can only regret for the enormous amounts invested by GOI on it ( Rs 650 million on an average during the lat 3 years alone!), knowing pretty well, especially after 1993 that it had become redundant in the eyes of the users for which it was established. Putting incompetent and inexperienced people with inappropriate qualification and lack of industrial experience at the top during the last two decades seems to have destroyed what ever little credibility it had to justify its continued existence. A vibrant institution, once considered the Mecca of food technology in whole of the Asian continent, it had about 1200 employees with a strong group of food scientists, technologists and engineers which now has dwindled to just 600!. Its regional centers, considered "eyes and ears" of the institute set up to help entrepreneurs in important areas like Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh etc were systematically starved of attention and resources and eventually forced to close down which is a tragedy of great proportion. The newly formed Ministry of Food Processing Industry (MFPI) set up at Delhi during early 1990s did very little to prop up CFTRI and now suddenly it wakes up to set up a brand new institution, investing hundreds of crore of rupees, to achieve the very same goals which CFTRI was mandated to do! 

No body is holding any brief for CFTRI which has to blame itself, facilitated by its insensitive parent body CSIR, for the sorry state of affairs it is in to day. It all started in early 1990s when a green-horn person with almost zero credentials, imported from the US, was foisted on the organization as the Head and it is history what mess this gentleman created during his short tenure of 3 years, running away before even completing half of his term!. This disaster was followed by another one when an equally unfit person from within the institute was put at the top, over taking 48 senior scientists above him, on considerations other than merit and past track record. This era, considered the darkest in the history of CFTRI, was marked by mindless push for increasing the number of publications of no use to the industry, frenetic chase for filing record number of impractical patents for record purpose, self glorification of the individual at the expense of the organization, deliberate shunning of small industrial entrepreneurs, gross mismanagement, unsustainable attrition rate of good scientists, stink of corruption and malpractices and rapid sliding of the morale of the employees. Though there was a change at the helm of affairs in 2012, it was like jumping from the frying pan to the fire with the new incumbent, probably a well meaning person, who does not have necessary industry background and food science strength, being appointed to lead the organization. Claiming to be a devoted scientist of some repute he seems to have very little comprehension about food technology and hence can do very little to bring the institute from its present state of morbidity. What can the industry expect from such an organization?  

NIFTEM cannot be a monument with large sophisticated and architectural building being put up at enormous cost but it needs people with necessary background to run it efficiently. Right now it does not make sense from where NIFTEM is going to get hundreds of trained food experts with adequate experience in food industry working, as there is a severe dearth of such personnel in the country at present. True there are mushrooming universities all over the country offering "courses" for a variety of degrees with "Food" prefixes but most of them are teaching shops, capable of transferring text book information to the entrants, with practically no facilities for hands on practical experience. Even the old training set ups in Mumbai, Kanpur, Kolkatta and to some extent in Nagpur and Ludhiana do not have adequate training infrastructure of high quality and if this is so one can imagine the conditions in other training places located in universities. It is no wonder that the food technology graduates from CFTRI are preferably picked up by the industry as it has still the best infrastructure and experts to churn out reasonably good materials. 

This Blogger was, is and will be of the view that setting up NIFTEM was a wrong move on the part of GOI whatever be the political compulsions for such a project. In stead, it would have been far better and effective to rejuvenate CFTRI by bringing in an industry experienced leader in stead of all sorts of people with absolutely no insight about the industry and with limited vision who can only think of irrelevant projects like milk from drumstick leaves or development of non-caloric fats or other nonsensical subjects of no interest to the industry or the farmers or the citizens at large. Re-establishing regional centers in as many states as possible is the need of the hour. Changing the present culture of servicing only large and transnational food companies and barring easy access to the fruits of research for unorganized and small industries as well as new entrepreneurs need to be reversed. Thousands of ethnic foods for which India is renowned must be taken up for "technologizing" their mass production as a priority. There is even justification to make all food technology institutions in the public sector like NIFTEM, DFRL and others in the country as regional arms of CFTRI so that an integrated approach with multipronged thrust for accelerating industry development can be achieved in a holistic way. These centers can have "food business incubators" for helping local entrepreneurs to launch new ventures and provide the much needed escort service  to make them really viable.


Thursday, November 22, 2012


No matter who governs, feeding a nation is an onerous responsibility. A vibrant government should always foresee food security problems well in advance and drought or floods should not be excuses for food shortages and unreasonable price escalation. Food security of a country hinges on a number of factors and adequate buffer stock as per universal norms can be a cushion for absorbing shocks due to occasional production falls on account of any reason. That way India has been well served by the huge grain stocks being held by the government during recent years though one can fault the government for not ensuring they are held in sound storage conditions. If the government did not plan in advance building of adequate storage infrastructure for food grains, what can be done with the surplus production?. Here is where there is dilemma, whether the country should export or distribute it free as being suggested by the Supreme Court some time back. If adequate planning is done the government could have managed such situations more efficiently in stead of resorting to last minute fire fighting mode. Unless there is a long term export policy in place, country cannot get maximum returns on its agricultural products and this is what is being debated during the last few decades but with no firm plan still emerging.      

If recent reports are to be believed India wants to be projected as a reliable source of agriculture commodities and the federal government is "toying" with the "idea" to "formulate" a long-term export-import policy for farm products. What has opened the eyes of the government is the bumper crop production of 257.4 million tonne last year and the huge surplus created by that situation. It is reported that government has at least about 45-50 million tons surplus after meeting the buffer stock need of about 21 million tonnes. It is true that, as a temporary export initiative, government did allow grain exports, mainly because of good global prices prevailing then. Export of agricultural commodities was invariably being determined by the perception about domestic need which rightly has a priority always and threat posed by any eventual shortages. But in the absence of a sustainable export policy, India has been finding it difficult to penetrate into new markets even in the years of surplus production resulting in losses to farmers as well as the government. This "switch-on" and "switch-off" policy on exports has not helped the country's image as a reliable supplier of commodities like rice wheat and sugar in the world market place. During the last two years it has been proved that any apprehension regarding adverse impact of food exports is misplaced and such exports should be part of a long term national policy, not to be tinkered every now and then. 

The excuse that large scale exports will depress international prices for some of the commodities like rice and wheat may be valid to some extent but if the country can strike long term agreements for mutual import-export of these vital food commodities with countries identified as friendly, it should be possible to over come deficit or surplus conditions without any major hiccup. Alternately surplus, if cannot be scientifically stored with available storage capacity, must be exported without bothering to care about international prices. After all many times in the past India had imported foods at high costs to meet food shortages without bothering about the cost. It is better to get some returns through export rather than allowing them to rot. 

Suggestions have also been made in the past to have a policy under which the surplus grains that cannot be stored must be
converted to alcohol which is after all not perishable, for commercial use while during shortage period alcohol from grains must be curtailed. If there is a flexible gasohol policy the alcohol produced can  easily be absorbed by the fuel industry. Alcohol is a vital industrial commodity with scores of uses and inter linking surplus gain production with alcohol production can ameliorate the situation to a great extent. This also calls into question the advisability of encouraging sugar cane cultivation in the country as this crop, not considered an essential nutrient source, locks up considerable extent of fertile land which other wise could have been used for pulses and oil seeds which are imported to day at great costs. It may be true that sugar cane cultivation brings in returns much higher than that by any other crop to day and hence suitable financial incentives will have to be given to the sugar cane farmers to switch over to pulses or oil seeds. Only such forward and daring policies can solve India's food problems. 

Will it be Utopian to think in terms of a world bank for food grains that can get contributions from different countries to build up a buffer stock at least for rice, wheat and corn which will be available for member countries for drawing at times of emergency to prevent domestic shortages?. It is like the present World Bank which lends money to member countries from its funds for developmental projects to be returned in due course. How far the rich nations will cooperate is a valid question and the third world countries must press for such a cooperative move to insure their population against food shortages from time to time. Already regional groups like SAARC have limited food grain banks though the magnitude of stocks held by them is minuscule compared to actual need.

Amid all these discussions, a moot question is whether there will be any surplus situation at all in future once the "charitable" food policy of the government distributing food grains to 65-70% of the population, deserving as well undeserving, at throw away prices comes into vogue soon. According to some experts the procurement of food grains to meet such an obligation will be huge and practically the entire surplus as being seen to day may evaporate! If that happens, government need not "toy" with any plan to have an export policy at all! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


It was not long ago that the Supreme Court in India admonished the Government for its "pussy footing" about problem of rotting wheat in its granaries. The court went to the extent of even suggesting distribution of the enormous quantity of wheat that could not be stored safely because of lack of storage capacity in its warehouses. Many observers even suggested that wheat should be exported to fetch valuable foreign exchange in stead allowing it to be spoiled because of exposure to weather elements under the CAP storage system. After almost an year GOI seems to have woken up to the reality and the hopelessness of the condition that exists in the country, it has recently allowed limited exports of wheat as well as sugar based on a "stop and go" policy.

According to recent reports GOI estimates that the country should be able to export about 5.5 million tons (mt) during the present financial year if the present trend is sustained till March. While a country like the US is expected to export more than 32 mt, Canada and Australia 18 mt each India's share in the world trade of 135 mt in wheat is less than 5%. Probably India can take consolation that its rank among the wheat exporting countries rose from being 16th last year to 7th this year!. Even the projection of 5.5 mt this year is based on the first half of the year performance which stood at 2.43 mt. Whether the simple arithmetic projection will materialize remains to be see under a regime which is not considered very stable politically. It may be recalled that only in September last year that GOI lifted the ban on wheat export, probably realizing that the available stock would be more than sufficient for ensuring food security.

A worrying factor that can still derail the progressive export policy now in place is the proposed Food Security Bill that will cover almost 70% of the country's population, offering rice and wheat practically free and whether the grains, available in its granaries presently and procured in future, would be adequate to meet this emerging demand. As per the records, GOI is holding a grain stock of about 43 mt presently which is much more than the 22 mt required as buffer stock according to global norms. If and when the Food Security Bill is passed and when the new policy is implemented, the situation may change dramatically and it should not come as a surprise if GOI again clamps on exports.

Any nation wishing to be a significant player in the global trade regime must have a stable and continuing export policy which only can generate the required confidence among the buyers. A fair weather exporter like India cannot be relied upon if the country does not strive to put in place a dynamic export policy which can instill confidence in the international market. If GOI can allow unrestricted exports, it is a question of time before the country can become a major player and such exports can be expected to create a positive backlash in the form of more production, better price realization to the farmer and creation of required infrastructure to maintain international quality for Indian products. What type of justification GOI can provide for exporting wheat at a price of $ 270 per ton, about Rs 14 per kg when the procurement price itself is about that and consumers pay almost double this price in the open market?

Export is inevitable whether one likes it or not because the country produces far in excess of the consumption need of the domestic market. As against an estimated production of 90 mt in the current year, Indian domestic consumption is only about 75 mt and the storage capacity in the country is far less than the surplus generated year after year. Indian agriculture is robust enough to maintain the present level of wheat production more or less and GOI should not have any apprehension in this regard. It is time the country invests on grain storage infrastructure and deploys most modern technologies for safe storage of grains for long time so that India becomes a quality and quantity player in grain exports in the coming years.

One of the excuses trotted out for not allowing export of wheat and sugar was that by doing that world prices would crash affecting global trade adversely. There were also fears that exports would affect domestic prices creating short supply in the market place. Did the export ban prevent price rise of sugar and wheat in the market in India? Absolutely not as Indian consumers have been buying these commodities in the open market at prices at least 10% more than that prevailed last year which is even higher than global prices. Now that limited exports under a controlled regime are allowed, countries like Bangladesh and other developing countries will be benefited to a great extent by getting Indian wheat, the price of which is almost 20-30% cheaper than that being realized by other exporting countries. It is a shame that India wheat cannot fetch good prices in the global market which may probably due to failure to adhere to quality norms set by other importing countries.  


Saturday, November 17, 2012


The fact that over 80% of antibiotics produced in the US is consumed by the animal food industry has been explained away by the need for keeping the meat products safe from contamination by pathogenic bacteria like virulent E.coli, Salmonella and Listeria. However it was later realized that the real purpose of using antibiotics in feed for animals was increasing the weight of the animals before slaughtering which in turn increased the profits of the industry very significantly. Though the meat industry does not admit to this fact, independent studies have confirmed that antibiotics do influence the body mass of the animals in a way not properly understood so far. Of course reducing incidence of contamination is a welcome development though the cost at which this is achieved is some what dubious. If mankind is running out of effective and reliable pool of antibiotics that fight many human diseases, the single most responsible factor is this indiscriminate use (or rather the misuse?) of these life saving drugs for purposes other than saving human lives. Large scale resistance by some of the mutated microorganisms to practically every known antibiotic is an area of intense concern at present.

Why should antibiotics contribute to increased body mass, first observed in laboratory animals a few years ago? Are they really obesogens which interfere with the hormone systems like many endocrine disruptors (ED)? Recent studies connecting antibiotic consumption to body weight increase indicate that they do not work within the body system, their influence being restricted inside the gastro-intestinal tract. It is a common knowledge that most antibiotics knock down intestinal microbial colonies irrespective of whether they are friendly or hostile. One of the earliest empirical observations was that those afflicted by typhoid tend to put on weight after going through the Chloramphenicol antibiotic therapy though the exact cause was not well understood. Also known was the need to replenish the gut microbes through administration of lyophilized cultures of Lactobacilli but the Lactobacilli cultures do not restore fully the profile of microorganisms which were original inhabitants in the gut. Probably this knowledge should have made scientists wiser about likely role of those microbes killed by the antibiotics in body weight increase but not replenished by the standard Lacobacilli therapy.

Now comes the confirmation through recent studies that gut microbes do play a role in fat accumulation in the body though the exact mechanism is yet to be elucidated. Even the identification of these species causing the body to accumulate fat has not been made yet. Only this throws more challenges in elucidating this area further through more detailed and wider studies. Some believe that those microorganisms not killed by the antibiotics become super efficient in extracting calories and converting them into fat. In studies using animals it was found that a gain of 2-4% fat was achieved when they were subjected to administration of low doses of antibiotics for a few weeks. Many farmers do use antibiotics in animals to achieve about 15% body weight on an average. Interestingly the make up of bacteria in animals becoming fatter due to antibiotic consumption resembles that which are present in obese animals, probably lending further weight to the argument that gut microbes are involved in obesity epidemic besides the foods which are rich in sugar and fat.

Against such a background will the world turn its back on reckless use of antibiotics for pecuniary benefits? If this does not happen a tragedy of bigger dimension is waiting to happen. Indirect indication that administration of antibiotics to children during early growth phase could be the real cause of obesity has come out from field studies linking obesity to antibiotic consumption during early childhood. It is alarming to know hear the disturbing possibilities that up to the age of 7 years children could be vulnerable to obesity if frequently treated with antibiotics and the risks are more within the first six months of birth. In a country like the UK it was reported that about 30% of children below the age of 6 months received antibiotic treatment a decade ago. Better sense has prevailed since and physicians seem to be more circumspect in prescribing antibiotics to tender children A consoling factor in this depressing scenario is that adults are not as much in danger as the children are, in getting fatter due to antibiotics.

What are the implications of the above studies on mankind? On one hand here is a situation where the present options vis-a-vis antibiotics are getting more and more limited due to wide scale antibiotic resistance being encountered while no new ones are being developed to counteract more and virulent Frankenstein bugs emerging with each passing day. On top of it wide scale misuse of existing antibiotics, besides not serving the purpose of killing disease causing microbes, tends to make people obese! according to one estimate such antibiotic induced obesity may enlarge the over weight population to the extent of 1.5-2% in the coming years.


Friday, November 9, 2012


If seminars, workshops, conferences, meetings etc can trigger industrial development, India should have been a top industrialized nation long ago. Every stake holder in food industry development needs to take take brunt of the blame for the present condition of Indian food industry which is more or less monopolized by a few giants with very little elbow room available to the country's unorganized processing sector. During the last 6 decades India must have seen at least 20-25000 seminars and similar types of meetings and gatherings spending millions of rupees and wasting millions of man days. The result is pathetic to see. While Indian banks are flush with money, availability of the same to cottage scale and small scale industries is often constrained by the unwillingness of these financial institutions, most of the being part of Government of India, to take reasonable risks in advancing money to the them. Banks seem to be more enamored by the glitter and reputation of big players for whom money is readily available!

Recent public events organized by the apex business body in India, Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) under the banner  Food 360 Degrees, whatever it may mean, is an illuminating example of the mindset in India where holding such events is mistaken for real ground level action. While lot of pains are taken to organize such gatherings with exalted objectives, what is missing is the follow up action on what has been decided at these meetings. According to FICCI, the Food 360 Degree initiative it has taken, is intended to take food industry development to rural areas and interestingly the latest event was organized in Hyderabad, no rural area by any stretch of imagination! Interestingly FICCI claims that "a number of farmers and other stakeholders representing food processing industry" participated in the program though what benefits farmers can derive from such a gathering is not clear. FICCI wants to organize such events in a "toned down" version in 10-12 other places. At best these gatherings, invariably held in 5-star hotels, are nothing but social networking with very little impact on industrial development.

Who does the FICCI represent? How many small industries are part of its system? While there are specialized food industry organizations like All India Food Processors Association or others representing sectors like baked foods, flour mills, fish processing, meat processing etc what can FICCI contribute to the development of food industry? This is not to question the bonafides of this body in organizing such get-together but what needs to be realized is such exercises can have only limited impact at the ground level. Ideally there should be a holistic linkage between the unorganized and small industries and the big players to transfer knowledge and support marketing of products made by the former though it is doubtful whether such a thing will ever happen in India.

It is true that any food industry development in India must take into consideration the inescapable fact that the raw materials or the feed stock for processing industry are generated in the vast hinterland  of the country or the villages which happen to be living place for more than 70% of the country's population. The fact that the food needs of more than 350 million people residing in urbanized regions of the country like towns and cities are to be supplied from agricultural areas cannot be ignored. Naturally the food industry development has to take place in these rural hinterland and not in Hyderabad, Mumbai or Kolkatta. A body like FICCI has very limited role to play in such a scenario with major burden to be borne by governments in the states and at the Center.

Who must bear the responsibility for the gross negligence of rural areas while formulating the food industry development policy? As industry is supposed to be a state subject under the Indian constitution, the primary responsibility does fall on the states but it is also necessary that such developments must be coordinated under a national food industry policy. The Ministry of Food Processing Industry (MFPI) in Delhi is vested with the responsibility to help the states to promote food industry and this ministry has come up with a few funding schemes for disbursement to entrepreneurs or to existing industries to grow further, though how far these financial schemes have served the purpose is a debatable point. MFPI's initiative to set up the brand new food technology research cum management institute under the banner NIFTEM which was recently inaugurated is another issue that can be very controversial. If past experience is any indication NIFTEM also will go the way CFTRI has gone, if the cause for failure of the latter is not properly diagnosed.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Food safety management can be a thankless job for any government because of the sensitivity of consumers to food shortages and price rise. Recent ban on entry of eggs produced from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu by the government is expected to create a no-win situation for both the government as well as the consumers. Out of about 15 million eggs consumed every day in Kerala, bulk of it comes from Tamil Nadu, almost 90%, while Karnataka sends about a million eggs. The reported prevalence of Avian Flu in Karnataka seems to be the provocation for Kerala to put in place such a ban and it is not clear whether this ban is justifiable at all considering that this viral disease is not easily transferable through eggs to human beings. As for infecting birds in Kerala, the poultry industry in Kerala is practically non-existent and such a possibility can be discounted. While as a precaution such temporary measures are in order, prolonging it can cause acute shortage and very high prices for eggs available in the market. Besides such long time ban can throw out of business many traders dealing with egg marketing.

It is but logical to expect that scarcity of eggs is going to create shortage in the market causing all round concern with most Keralites being non-vegetarians by nature. Looking at the chronology of events, it may be recalled that the ban was imposed by the State on the eggs and poultry coming from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka a few days ago. If reports are to be believed many traders depending on egg business have shut down their outlets because of stop of flow of eggs from out side consequent to the ban and one can imagine its economic impact on the industry. According to some observers, eggs and poultry products being brought from Tamil Nadu are certified by veterinary doctors. and only broiler chicken and eggs for incubation purpose are brought from Karnataka. Also to be noted is that the bird flue was reported in a farm in Karnataka a week ago and the authorities there had taken steps to destroy the affected product. It is in this context that the industry feels the ban makes little sense. The poultry industry in Tamil Nadu is also incurring huge losses on account of the development and about 120 loads of eggs are reported to be awaiting clearance at check posts between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Imagine the consequences of these eggs getting spoiled due to slow clearance at the border check posts. How the situation is going to be handled remains to be seen with the possibility of substantial portion of the eggs getting perished.

The price of eggs for both direct consumers as well as others like bakeries, restaurants and road side vendors is bound to shoot up due to the prevailing ban. Interestingly same eggs are being marketed in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as these states have not banned them as a knee-jerk response to isolated detection of bird flu there. What will be a worrying factor is regarding the fate of eggs losing their quality due to disruption of the flow into Kerala. Are they going to be sorted out and fed to the market or there will be compulsory destruction of the entire lot? Who will be responsible to look into these aspects? Kerala, Tamil Nadu or Karnataka? While the right of any state to prohibit entry of unsafe foods into its territory is to be respected, same has to be exercised with utmost caution. Though the bakery industry is most vociferous in criticizing the ban as they fear that with Christmas season fast approaching their business is going to be seriously impacted, there is a general concern that Kerala will witness serious turmoil if the ban is not lifted soon.

It is interesting to note the relatively high consumption of eggs in Kerala which works out to about 4 eggs per week per person or 220 eggs per year compared to 43 eggs annual per capita consumption in whole of the country. Of course in comparison, countries like Japan, Mexico etc consume more than 300 eggs per year per person. According to the nutritional norms of the GOI, on an average a person must consume 180 eggs an year for good health. While egg consumption is generally discouraged among well fed population due to its high cholesterol content, for those who are not in their pink of health due to limited access to good food, egg is an excellent source of balanced nutrition. While population in the industrialized world need to curtail their egg consumption, in a country like India egg consumption needs to be encouraged. 

The poultry industry in Kerala is practically non existent with average daily production being about 60, 000 eggs! Coming back to the ban, it is not clear why the Kerala government has not taken pro-active steps to encourage poultry industry in that state, making the population there vulnerable to such a situation. Is it that the high humidity in most parts of the state is not conducive to poultry birds? Probably not. A puzzling factor is that when there is a huge growing market for eggs, the state depends on imports from neighboring states. It is time that the state wakes up to the real potential of poultry industry and encourage setting up huge poultry farms in the state, probably with foreign technology with high efficiency. A ban probably may not be the answer under the present circumstances and a cooperative effort among the three governments concerned can find an immediate solution, in stead of taking such unilateral action to ban the trading in eggs, putting lot of people in these states in difficulty in terms of food shortage and business loss.