Though agriculture contributes only 1/4th of Indian GDP, it sustains approximately 2/3rd of the population and continues to determine the growth rate of the national economy. Moreover, India has natural comparative advantage in agriculture with 161 million hectares of arable land ( of which 55 MH is irrigated) and widely diverse agro-climatic zones. Indian Agriculture, therefore, can be easily diversified to meet diverse demands of both domestic and overseas consumers. Indian farm produce has unique aroma, flavour and taste and if processed, packaged and marketed properly, could capture the world market. Even at the present level of productivity, which is less than half of US level, India is the third largest producer of food in the world, covering a wide range of agri-produce.

Food processing enhances shelf life and adds value even if the agri produce is merely cleaned, sorted and packaged. Further processing into high value-added product is even more advantageous.Value addition enables
remunerative prices to farmers. Enhanced shelf life leads to reduction in wastages. Food processing is moreover employment intensive and creates 1.8 jobs directly and 6.4 indirectly across the supply chain for every Rs. 1 million invested. It provides convenience & safe food to consumers and promotes diversification and commercialisation of agriculture by providing effective linkage between consumers and farmers. Moreover, it makes farm produce more exportable the share of the processed food in the global agricultural exports of about $520 bn (Year 2003, Source: FAO) over the last 20 years has increased from half to two third and the trend is accelerating. Promotion of food processing thus is necessary for the national economy, the farmers and the consumers.

Growth of food processing is also inevitable with rising incomes, favourable demographic transition and changing consumption pattern. Households would shift substantially in the higher income group in the coming 10 years. Population in the age group of 20-54 years, which can afford and would need convenience food, would grow at 3%. [1991-370m, 2001- 452 m, 2010 E-577m]. Moreover, food consumption is continually shifting in favour of packaged/processed food. Between 93-94 & 2000-01, manufacturing of food & beverages grew by 7.0%, while agriculture & livestock grew by 3.7% only.

Various measures have been taken by the government to give a boost to the food processing sector. With these measures food processing sector has grown at 7 per cent. In order to arrest post-harvest losses of horticulture & non-horticulture produce, the Ministry has accorded approval to 42 Mega Food Parks and 236 Integrated Cold Chains for creation of modern infrastructure for the food processing along the value chain from the farm to the market. Out of 42 Mega Food Parks, 8 are operational. Of this, 6 Mega Food Parks have been made operational during the last 3 years. Another 4 Mega Food Parks are targeted for operationalization in next three months. Similarly, out of 236 Cold Chains, 101 Cold Chains have been sanctioned recently in March, 2017. 100 Cold Chains have become operational. Of which, 63 Cold Chains Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters have been made operational during last 3 years.

Government has taken various other measures to boost food processing sector as follows:

(a) To provide impetus to investment in food processing and retail sector, govt. has allowed 100% FDI in trading including through e-commerce, in respect of food products manufactured and / or produced in India. This will benefit farmers immensely and will create back - end infrastructure and significant employment opportunities.

(b) The govt. has also set up a Special Fund of Rs. 2000 crore in NABARD to make available affordable credit at concessional rate of interest to designated food parks and agro processingunits in the designated food parks.

(c) Food and agro-based processing units and cold chain infrastructure have been brought under the ambit of Priority Sector Lending (PSL) to provide additional credit for food processing activities and infrastructure thereby, boosting food processing, reducing wastage, create employment and increasing farmers' income. SAMPADA with an allocation of

Rs. 6,000 crore is expected to leverage investment of Rs. 31,400 crore, handling of 334 lakh MT agro-produce valuing Rs. 1,04,125 crore, benefit 20 lakh farmers and generate 5,30,500 direct/ indirect employment in the country by the year 2019-20. The objective of SAMPADA is to supplement agriculture, modernize processing and decrease agri-waste.

SAMPADA is an umbrella scheme incorporating ongoing schemes of the Ministry like Mega Food Parks, Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure, Food Safety and Quality Assurance Infrastructure, etc. and also new schemes like Infrastructure for Agroprocessing Clusters, Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages, Creation / Expansion of Food Processing & Preservation Capacities.

The SAMPADA is a comprehensive package to give a renewed thrust to the food processing sector in the country. It includes new schemes of Infrastructure for Agroprocessing Clusters, Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages and Creation / Expansion of Food Processing & Preservation Capacities aim at development of modern infrastructure to encourage entrepreneurs to set up food processing units based on cluster approach, provide effective and seamless backward and forward integration for processed food industry by plugging gaps in supply chain and creation of processing and preservation capacities and modernization expansion of existing food processing units.

The implementation of SAMPADA will result in creation of modern infrastructure with efficient supply chain management from farm gate to retail outlet. It will not only provide a big boost to the growth of food processing sector in the country but also help in providing better prices to farmers and is a big step towards doubling of farmers' income. It will create huge employment opportunities especially in the rural areas. It will also help in reducing wastage of agricultural produce, increasing the processing level, availability of safe and convenient processed foods at affordable price to consumers and enhancing the export of the processed foods.

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