By Vijay C Roy
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) — in a bid to give the much-needed impetus to the food processing industry in Punjab — has identified six thrust areas for development of the sector.
According to the focus paper prepared by Nabard, the state provides immense potential to the grain, fruit & vegetables, milk, meat & poultry, and honey-based industries.
In Punjab, the credit requirement for food processing industry is estimated to be around Rs 1011 crore, according to the potential linked plan (PLP) prepared by Nabard, which further says that this provides ample opportunity for banks to lend money to these sectors.
Further, according to rough estimates, there are 25,000 agro-based industries in Punjab, generating an annual revenue of Rs 1900 crore.
According to a senior Nabard official, since Punjab is a major wheat and rice producing state, there is a lot of potential for wheat and rice processing units. Besides this, there are opportunities to set up grain-based industries such as bread and biscuit, rice and starch mills, rice bran oil, noodles and baby food, beer, whiskey and health drinks. Presently, only three crops — wheat (44 per cent), paddy (33 per cent) and cotton (7 per cent) — account for more than 80 per cent of the total cropped area in the state.
According to the PLP, there are also opportunities to set up fruit & vegetable-based industries to manufacture preservatives, pickles, sauces, puree, ketchup, canned products, dehydrated vegetables, potato chips, wafers, french fries etc. Milk-based industries can also be set up to produce pasteurised milk, sterilised milk, milk shakes, paneer, butter, ghee, sweets, milk powders, yoghurt, etc.
The official also mentioned that besides these sectors, meat & poultry-based and honey-based industries can also be set up to help poultry, meat and honey farmers.
Further, food parks should be made a hub for food and agro processing units. The potential of the area and the capacity of the processing units to tap this potential would dictate the setting up of these parks. This would help in effective utilisation of the infrastructure.
According to the state focus paper, post harvest and marketing infrastructure, including grading, packaging, transportation and storage needs to be done on a larger scale. Also, value addition and processing industries offer tremendous opportunities for income and growth. This would provide the much needed thrust for the food processing industry.
The main concern is the low capacity utilisation due to the lack of raw materials. Also, lack of storage infrastructure and cold chain marketing facility for both fresh and processed commodities is also a hindrance to the growth of the industry.