New Delhi, Aug.5 : Calling for increased investment in food processing sector, Minister of State for Food Processing Industries Subodh Kant Sahai said on Tuesday stressed the need for creating awareness about food safety and services.
He said that the time is right for this as not only was demand growing, but also the sector was "virtually taxless".
Sahai was speaking at the inauguration of the two-day seminar on 'Freedom from Food-borne illnesses through safe Kitchens' organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
He urged investors to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the food-processing sector in India in 2008-2009, which has been declared by the Ministry as 'Food Quality and Safety Year'.
He said the seminar "aims to create awareness in one of the most critical links in the entire food supply chain, the kitchen," and therefore, called for more such awareness programmes to make India a "Safe Food Destination".
He said India's food processing sector had recorded a growth of 13.4 per cent growth amidst adversities in the global market.
Sahai said that on the basis of a detailed review of the 10th Plan, his Ministry has restructured its thrust areas.
"Infrastructure development would be given a high priority during the 11th Plan, which will have a direct bearing on food safety and quality," he added.
The Minister also said that a scheme would soon be launched for street food vendors to help them upgrade hygiene and quality of street food.
"The vendors would be identified, profiled, trained in food safety," he said.
Secretary, Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Rahul Sarin said that India plans to increase the level of food processing from two percent at present to 20-35 percent by 2015. This would require not only reduction of wastage but also enhancement of food safety and quality.
Dr. Gavin Wall, the FAO's India representative, pointed at the rapid growth of food eating joints in India and said that in this respect hygienic catering services provide an opportunity as well as a challenge to the industry.
In his welcome address Piruz Khambatta, Chairman, CII Food Processing Committee, put forth some interesting figures. He cited a recent WHO report that said that one in every ten diseases and six per cent of debts globally are on account of lack of sanitation. He said that if this aspect were taken care of, it would mean a total productivity gain of 9.9 billion dollars per year.
Khambatta said that there is an increasing need to promote greater assurance for consumers about food safety and quality. He said that the CII has come up with 14-point checklist on food safety for street food vendors and expressed the hope that India can become a outsourcing destination given its growth rate.