Govt reviews food processing industry post lockdown scenario

Center urges industry to procure food grains and other perishables to benefit farmers

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Food processing
Photo - John Lambeth

Union minister of Food Processing Industries (FPI), Harsimrat Kaur Badal chaired a video conference with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and its members to discuss the current outlook of food processing industry and requirements of the industry post lockdown scenario. Union FPI Minister was welcomed by the secretary-general of FICCI Dilip Chenoy and was also thanked for her continuous support to the food industry since the beginning of the lockdown.

Union minister cited the importance of the industry to revive its operations at full capacity without compromising the measures for containment of the spread of COVID 19. The task force of the ministry, led by senior officials and members of Invest India, has already been coordinating with the industry members and assisting them with the issues or challenges faced across states.

Badal pointed at the major concern of losing the harvested crops and perishables in different parts of the country. During the video conference held on 28 April 2020, Union minister requested all members to come forward to procure this harvested wheat, paddy, fruit and vegetables and other perishables so that wastage can be minimized and the farmers are benefitted.

The industry members cited a few existing issues for the necessary intervention of the ministry. These included requirements of SOP for operating facilities in different containment zones, dedicated nodal officials for the food processing industry at state levels to address challenges, standardized protocol for issuing worker passes to operate facilities and maintain the supply chain, reevaluating the process of identifying COVID clusters or regions and others.

She agreed with the industry’s voice on the requirement of detailed guidelines for the food factories to operate in containment zones as well as with the idea of 60-75% workers being allowed to operate in facilities if industry was able to ensure necessary measures to protect their workers. Ideas on reviving the retail sector were also invited from the industry.

The members mentioned that the food industry was expected to witness growth due to in-home increase in demand of larger value food packs and also shared the industry would start reviving as soon as the supply chain got reestablished.

Pushpa Subrahmanyam, secretary FPI thanked FICCI and its members for their support in maintaining the supply of food products in this critical time. It was apprised that the required advisories were already issued by the Government to address the challenges related to logistics, warehouse operations, movement of workers and vehicles. She advised the industry members to share specific issues with the Grievance Cell to enable the team to resolve the same. A working model was also invited from the industry for the Government to consider allowing greater workforce to join the facilities. Suggestions were also invited from the members to frame a scheme to support the food industry.

Hemant Malik, chair, FICCI Food Processing Committee and chief executive officer-ITC Foods Division and leading industry members including Simon Geroge, president Cargill India, T Krishnakumar, president Coca Cola India, Mohit Anand, managing director Kellogg India, Deepak Iyer, president India Mondelez International, Sanjay Sharma, chief executive officer MTR Foods, RS Sodhi, managing director Amul, Tarun Arora, chief executive officer Zydus Wellness among many others, shared their inputs on the present scenario of the industry and ideas to move forward.

Industry members were apprised that these recommendations were already taken up with concerned ministries for necessary action. Union Minister assured industry members of necessary support from the ministry and advised all members to get in touch with the task force for any assistance.

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