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India needs to fix missing links in farm-to-fork value chain, reduce food wastage: President

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(Eds: Updating with more quotes and details) New Delhi, Dec 20 (PTI) India, a surplus food producing country, needs to fix missing links in the farm-to-fork value chain and also reduce food wastage, President Ram Nath Kovind said Thursday. Speaking at the platinum jubilee of All India Food Processors' Association (AIFPA) here, Kovind said there is a "substantial" difference in what the farmers get for their produce and what the consumers pay and emphasised on the need to reduce this difference. The President also stressed on reducing food wastage, promote use of bio-degradable packaging and manufacturing of processed food products which are compatible with modern health concerns. "India is not short of food today. When it comes to many agriculture commodities and processed food, we have a surplus. We command a growing slice of a global market. Now is the moment we scale up our ambition for wider economic benefit, most so for prospects of farmers," the President said. He suggested four-pronged approach as a road ahead to boost agriculture and food processing sector. "First we must fix missing links in the farm-to fork value chain. The difference between what farmers get for their crop and consumers pay both within the country and internationally is substantial. It is important to reduce this," he added. Expressing concern over food wastage, the President said, it is a global problem as there is huge wastage not only in farm fields but also in the food processing industry. "In India, food wastage poses not just economic questions but moral ones as well. We are a country with undeniable inequalities in income and consumption. Food wastage can easily be prevented by better and more rational food distribution," he said. Quoting a UN report, he said USD 1.2 trillion worth of food is simply thrown away every year and it amounts to half of India's GDP. Even the Central Institute of Post Harvesting Engineering (CIPHE) has estimated the value of post harvest wastage to be about Rs 1 lakh crore. Asserting that food processing sector has a major role in bringing down the wastage, the President said, "it can help build the food value chain by being a bridge between the farmer and diverse and distant markets." The industry can enter into long-term contracts with farmers for specific commodities and items. It can also make investments and promote infrastructure in the form of cold chains, quick movement and management of food commodities, and technology that keeps food produce safe and edible for longer periods, he added. Highlighting the steps being taken by the government to boost the food processing sector, Kovind said, initiatives like MUDRA scheme can only be successful if the food processing industry becomes a facilitator and user. He called upon the industry to focus on bio-degradable packaging in order to curb use of plastics, fight climate change and reduce pressure on landfills. He also emphasised on manufacturing processed food products that are compatible with modern health concerns and that meets best-in-class standards. "Safety standards must be exacting enough to meet the international specifications. This is critical to help your products reach new markets... As more food products are created, more food products will be tested, introduced and consumed," he added. Speaking on the occasion, Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said the government is working to clear roadblocks in the sector to boost food processing level, which at present is lower at 10 per cent. She said that India has potential to become food factory of the world and the government has taken several steps to help the sector to scale up. Echoing views, ITC Managing Director Sanjiv Puri said, the level of food processing in India is lower when compared to 50 per cent in the developed nations. So, there are tremendous opportunities to grow given the rising consumer demand for value-added nutritional foods. PTI LUX DRR

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