Saturday, December 1, 2012


Almost 4 decades back that Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) conceived a novel concept of a food industrial estate which would become a cluster of food processing units with complimentary functions and for mutual benefits. Under such a concept CFTRI identified about 20 food processing projects based on its own technologies and approached the Karnataka State Government for implementing the same at Mysore which was country's most prominent food research and development corridor. The basis of this concept was that most small scale entrepreneurs are starved of appropriate technologies based on which only one can plan a manufacturing venture. With a single window clearance facility offered to the identified entrepreneurs, Government did provide land and other infrastructure to selected entrepreneurs to locate them selves and start manufacturing activities. Unfortunately the Food Industrial Estate in Mysore never attained full bloom with hardly half a dozen units coming up. The reasons for such a dismal failure are many and based on this experience this concept could have been developed further. Nothing happened thereafter!

It was during 1989-1990 Government of India (GOI), in response to continuous pressure from the food sector decided to set up a special dedicated Ministry for development of food industry in the country. Whether one likes it or not the basic contours of the ministry and its objectives were written in Mysore and after the formation of the ministry, called Ministry of Food Processing Industry (MFPI) CFTRI provided lot of inputs to this ministry in preparing their program for the five year plans, at least in its formative years. The first Secretary Mr Murari and Deputy Secretary Gopalan were involved in this exercise. Beginning its function with a Minister of State holding independent charge, it became a full fledged ministry later headed by a cabinet rank minister. In spite of limitations on the functioning styles of government agencies MFPI was able to provide some useful inputs to the development of food industry in the country. Whether it has justified its creation during the last two decades of work should be left to historians to judge.

Though GOI has never been short of funds, one of the major fault lines vis-a-vis food related priorities of the government was the low priority accorded to this sector by government as a whole, making MFPI a minor player in the scheme of things. Food industry continued to suffer in spite of the presence of MFPI which had very little influence on the policy making level. Interestingly almost all ministers and secretaries who were holding charge in MFPI considered their posting as insignificant and were reluctant players in taking responsibilities and path breaking decisions. Those who worked for MFPI were invariably bureaucrats with very little place for technocrats, knowledgeable about food industry problems and understanding technical needs of the entrepreneurs. If to day MFPI has become a "fund disburser" only and not involved in providing any other inputs to development of industry, GOI has to take the blame squarely.

Coming back to the issue of food parks, the MFPI conceived "Mega Food Park Scheme" (MFPS) is nothing but a glorified version of the original CFTRI conceived food industrial estate with the major exception that the participating ventures probably will all be large players. There are very good features associated with MFPS but whether they will really work remains to be seen. One of the lurking suspicions is whether those Mega Parks will become attractive only for the reason that availability of land becomes easy as land procurement is a big constraint to day under the present government rules. Though MFPI is planning for a total of 30 such mega parks and the first one was inaugurated recently after a delay of 3-4 years, it is difficult to anticipate how successful these parks will be as the logistics of implementing them are awesome. According to MFPI officials another seven such mega parks are in "advanced" stages of "completion". The out come of this experiment can be uncertain and depends on many factors beyond the control of the ministry.

A preliminary report on the first mega park functionalized in Chittoor in AP claims that the set up has world-class facilities for pulping, IQF, bottling, tetra packing, modular cold storage, warehousing and advanced testing lab. It boasts of basic and supply chain infrastructure, cluster farming, backed by field collection centers, self help groups and individual farmers, sprawling over an area 147-acres. One of the most critical factors on which such multi products manufacturing complex depend, will be the ready willingness of right type of personnel, in quality and quantity, with different background and qualification to settle in country sides, where mega parks are going to be located. Availability of high class educational facilities nearby can be the best incentive for attracting talents to come and work at these parks. It must be remembered that the preference of many industrial units to establish their operations in urban areas is due to the difficulties involved in imparting decent education to the siblings of those working in the plants in rural areas. Mega parks should not fail on this account and creation of an educational institution, at least up to the level of matriculation, in the proximity of each park must be an integral part of the scheme. Probably experience gained during the operationalization of first few parks may give further insight into this likely problem.


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