New Delhi, May 8 : Union Cabinet Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal wants India's food processing industry to capture the massive export opportunity which will occur on the back of Covid-19 triggered shift in global trade.
Accordingly, the Minister of Food Processing has been busy strategising India's game plan to enhance exports along with smoothening the way for increased foreign capital and gearing-up the industry to deal with the bumper harvest during the lockdown period.
In an exclusive interview to IANS, the Minister said: "The Covid 19 crisis opens up huge opportunities for Indian products to capture a major share of exports given the anti-China sentiment permeating global relations in trade." "In the medium term, the sector is bound to witness an inflow of large investments and my ministry will ensure necessary assistance for any investment interests through its dedicated 'Investment Facilitation Cell'." At present, 100 per cent FDI under automatic route is permitted for the food processing sector in India.
Similarly, 100 per cent FDI is also allowed for trading, including through e-commerce, in respect of food products manufactured and produced in India, under government approval route.
According to the Minister, regular discussions are being held with the industry to gather their inputs on ways and means to increase exports.
"There shall be a global shift in the existing pattern of import-export as many countries look forward to reset and realign their food supply chains," the Minister said.
"This opens up new vistas for Indian exporters to carve out a niche for themselves. Realising this, we have held deliberations with APEDA, MPEDA and promoters of MoFPI supported projects, to venture out and explore the new opportunities that have opened up post Covid." In terms of the response to Covid-19 outbreak, Badal pointed out that the Ministry's proactive approach facilitated the timely redressal of issues that were faced by the industry.
"Continuous efforts were made to link with state governments, food processors, retailers, mandis, etc. to bring them on one platform so as to reduce wastage of agricultural produce, provide better price to farmers and maintain supply chain infrastructure," the Minister said.
"The Ministry through its 'Task Force' manned by the senior officers of the ministry, is continuously monitoring the food production and supply chain logistics." The ministry had formed a dedicated task force to address issues faced by the food and allied industry so that it can run at maximum capacity.
"I am also working with various stakeholders towards policy interventions required to make the industry ready for post Covid scenario." Besides, the Minister credited the cold-chain infrastructure in the country to have saved harvested perishables from getting wasted.
"The cold chain infrastructure supported by the ministry across the country, in particular, has come as a saviour for storing the perishables during the lockdown period," the Minister said.
"The dairy and poultry industry, in particular, was suddenly faced with surpluses in view of the steep drop in demand caused by the sudden closure of the restaurant and hotel industry." The first two phases of the national lockdown to curb the spread of the Covid-19 outbreak had imposed movement restrictions.
Consequently, the food industry had to operate at a capacity of 25-30 per cent only during the initial lockdown period.
"This could have led to serious disruption in the supply chain. To address these challenges, I held multiple video conferences with food processors across states, leading industry associations, exporters and other stakeholders," the Minister said.
On March 26, the ministry formed a task force with Invest India to resolve the issues being faced by the food processing and allied industry in the country due to lockdown.
Till May 3, the team had received a total of 564 issues out of which 533 were resolved.
"The task force also ensured business continuity by facilitating hundreds of units in resuming their operations. The team continues to monitor and address evolving challenges by working 24X7 to ensure that the industry can operate in a hassle-free manner," the Minister said.
(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at email@example.com)