Wednesday, August 10, 2011: 01:40:51 PM

Food Processing Trend

Semi-processing food units can make huge difference

High demand for processed food in the international market makes Indian food processing a high potential sector, need for semi-processing units in rural sector

At a recent meeting between well known food experts it was determined that India needs to start semi-processed food units in the rural areas. The experts opined that there is a great demand for processed foods internationally and establishing such units would be a great benefit to the farming as well as processing sector in the country.

Present scenario
Food processing units have been in great demand in India especially because of the high amount of wastage recorded each year. One of the biggest challenges for the industry is bringing processing facilities to the farmers in isolated areas. These farmers, due to lack of technical know-how, end up storing the grains and other farm produce in inappropriate locations, which often causes damage to the food. Reports indicate that food worth thousands of crores is wasted each year in the country.
Tarun Bajaj, general manager at Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) said during the Food Processing Conclave 2011 that there is an urgent need to stop the wastage of food and the losses that were incurred due to it. He added that food processing was therefore the best solution to the issue.
While processing of food might enhance the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, several experts advise a degree a caution regarding the consumption of these products,. Many feel that these food products should not be considered in the same category as raw fruits and vegetables.
“Developments in food technology and storage ensure that the consumer has a wide range of fruit and vegetables available all year round, but it is not correct to call apples that are 9 months as old truly fresh. Similarly, spinach refrigerated for just 8 days is known to lose more than 50% of its key nutrients and consumer is never aware of this fact while buying a ‘fresh looking’ spinach from the supermarket,” said VH Potty, renowned food technologist and chairman of Diversified Food Technologies.
Semi-processed food units
If semi-processed food units are established in rural areas, not only will the shelf life of the food products improve but there will also be value addition to the products form the farming stage. Adding value to food products at the farmer level has been identified as a major step in bringing Indian food exports at par with the developed nations. Though some food experts feel that processing can lead to loss of food value in some cases, there is ample support for the measure from the government and the industry.
Semi-processing involves dehydrating or producing partially processed and stable pulp of fruits and vegetables that have much higher shelf life than the raw farm produce. A recent initiative in Tripura provides a better example and a clearer insight into the importance of processing in wastage reduction. A well known food processing company recently established a fruit processing unit in Agartala where raw pineapple was converted to juice, jam, squashes, slices and jelly. Sources revealed that the new factory will provide employment to a number of women in the packaging and production of the pineapple products.
Tias Chakraborty

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