NEW DELHI — In a bid to reduce post-harvest waste in India valued at 920 billion rupees ($14.2 billion), and to raise farming income, the government is launching an ambitious national scheme involving large food parks, integrated cold chains, and food-processing clusters. About 40% of India’s agriculture production goes to waste each year due to inadequate infrastructure. The loss of so much food is particularly galling when nearly 300 million Indians live in extreme poverty and face constant hunger and malnutrition.
The government wants to develop a more efficient and integrated supply chain for agriculture produce involving value-adding backward linkages to farms for the provision of fertiliser, equipment, and processing facilities. Forward linkages will focus on storage and more modern retail systems. The domestic strategy will also contribute to efforts to develop India as a food exporter.
On Tuesday, the government unveiled Sampada, a scheme to improve processing of agriculture and marine produce by developing clusters. The Sampada program will receive state funding of 60 billion rupees over five years, and will play the leading role in developing the food-processing sector. Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the minister of food-processing industries, said Sampada will be launched “very soon” but did not give a date.
“Our target is to make a national food grid consisting of cold chains and food parks, where from production to consumption there is a seamless transfer of perishable [produce] with the lowest amount of wastage,” she said.
The government aims to shorten supply chains to make them more efficient, and to create huge retail venues. Last year, it also approved 100% foreign investment for multi-brand retailing of food produced in India.
Badal noted that in the e-commerce sector about $700 million has already been committed to the online grocery business by U.S.-based Amazon and local companies like BigBasket and Grofers.
The unveiling of Sampada follows a Mar. 27 announcement by the ministry that over 100 integrated additional cold chain projects around the country have been sanctioned to handle perishables — fruit, vegetables, dairy produce, meat, and marine produce.
Companies like dairy organization Amul and snack maker Halidiram will be involved in the development of the cold chains over the next 20 months, with overall investment of 31 billion rupees, of which 8.38 billion rupees will be from the government.
India is already the world’s second largest producer of fruit and vegetables, but only 2.2% of these are processed. At present, cold stores exist in only a few states, and over 80% are used for potatoes only.
With so much to do, the government has already approved 42 “mega” food parks and 234 cold stores, including the latest announcements. Combined, these will have capacity for nearly 14 million metric tons of produce worth 350 billion rupees, and will all be coordinated under Sampada. The projects are also expected to generate employment for 350,000 people and to benefit 1.5 million farmers, who should be able to command higher prices.
Complementary work is also being done on developing agro-processing clusters geared to regional strengths. Badal’s ministry is mapping production in different regions to ensure production and storage are properly matched and appropriate technologies are put in place. This will improve food quality and hygiene while reducing prices, raising farm income, and generating employment. According to Badal, India’s retail sector is worth $600 billion, of which 70% is food, making the potential enormous.