Food processing sector next growth engine of Indian economy: Sahai

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New Delhi, Jul 17 (UNI) Union Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahai today said food processing is an important sector for the Indian economy in terms of natural resource base and manpower availability and it presents a huge growth opportunity for the country.

Speaking at Summit on Processed Food - Advantage India 2008 'Feeding Global Business Opportunities', organised by Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Mr Sahai said India holds tremendous advantages in agriculture for processing and value addition, contributing 19 per cent to India's GDP.

He said food processings is a taxless sector and within four years the taxes have come down from 40 per cent to five per cent. The Ministry of Food Processing is expanding specific initiatives to bring this sector in line with other booming sectors like automotive and IT.

The Ministry has brought in integrated food law, thereby, paving the way for merger, amendment as well as repealing 15 separate laws that currently govern the country's food sector. This law also proposes to empower a single authority to implement the integrated law. Further, the total outcome of the 11th Five Year Plan would be coming in shortly.

Talking about the various incentives available for the new ventures, he said the Government is making investor-friendly policies, which are tax-free to woo the investors. The government grant has been decentralised so that one can avail the benefits from the same bank via a single window. Consequently, it saves the investor's time.

The Minister further added that there is no licencing for the first five years and only 25 per cent after that.

Highlighting the potential of the sector, Mr Sahai said it could provide income generation opportunities for 70 per cent of the country's population.

The Government has introduced many initiatives to increase the level of food processing percentage from the present low levels. The initiatives include: -- Automatic approval to Foreign Direct Investment up to 100 per cent equity in FPI sector excluding alcoholic beverages and a few reserved items.

-- Fruits and vegetables products, condensed milk, ice cream, meat production, fish and poultry, pectins, pasta, dairy machineries completely exempt from Central Excise Duty.

-- Customs Duty on Packaging Machine reduced.

-- Central Excise Duty on meat, poultry and fish reduced to eight per cent.

-- Income Tax rebate allowed for new industries in fruits and vegetables.

-- Institutional and Credit support -- Food parks approved to enable small and medium food and beverage units to set up and to use capital intensive common facilities such as cold storage, warehouse, quality control labs, effluent treatment plant, etc.

Indian ethnic food items are very famous all over the world. The country not only produces ethnic food products but also produces Chinese, French, Japanese, Thai and other international cuisines with same quality and taste, as their home country, he said.

Domestic and global markets, quality and safety have become critical requirements for enterprises producing foods and providing food related services, he added.

The concept of food safety and quality is important for all stakeholders starting from the farmers to the processors, to the retailers and to the consumers. There are large number of Indian and overseas buyers for the food processing sector, the Minister mentioned.


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