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French expertise to boost India’s processed food industry

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The scope for enlarging trade relations between India and France in sectors like the food industry is humongous with plenty of opportunities for both the countries. Taking this potential into cognizance, Business France, the French government agency, is taking key initiatives to promote trade relations between France and India. Amongst the sectors that it is looking to impart business thrust are agrofood and food processing industries. The agency plays an important role in assisting French companies that are seeking potential partners and new markets in India, while helping Indian businesses to identify potential French suppliers and technical partners.

In order to maximise commercial opportunities between French and Indian companies, the agency organises regular trade meetings, as well as offering other B2B networking events and individual partnering services. One of the major initiatives of the agency has been to ensure greater collaboration between French and Indian companies in the import-export of fresh fruits and vegetables, and enhanced business cooperation and partnerships in sectors such as wine and spirits, meat and dairy products, organic food, food production industry, packing, and farming machinery.

There have been pretty positive outcomes to show for in some of these areas even as interests in the others have been on the rise. The case of India’s apple market provides a good study of the kind of business impact that efforts undertaken by Business France have been able to produce. Until as recently as 2013, the presence of French companies in India’s apple market was minuscule; France ranked a lowly 13th among India’s apple suppliers. It prompted Business France to launch a call among French apple exporters who responded favourably. A series of meetings between French exporters and Indian importers were organised, which made French exporters aware of the expectations of Indian apple importers as well as consumers. The exchange brought about fruitful alliances and partnerships with remarkably productive results. Within a year’s span, in an impressive show of improvement, France had become the fifth biggest apple exporter to India.

Similar collaborations should be pursued for forging ties aimed towards the development of the agribusiness and food-processing sector. During her visit to France in October last year, Minister for Food Processing Industries , reiterated the need to strengthen Indo-French cooperation in agro-processing sector, which presents fabulous business opportunities for both countries. The minister had taken up the occasion to invite French companies to take advantage of the large size and growth potential of the Indian market and the abundant availability of a variety of agricultural products by investing in agro processing sector in India.

The Indian food-processing sector produces around 50 million tons of fruits and 90 million tons of vegetables. But due to inadequate food processing infrastructure, only 6% of the perishable products available in India get processed. In times to come, India’s changing socio-economic situation will create a huge future demand for processed food, presenting both challenges and opportunities for the food processing industry. As leaders in food processing technology, France can avail of this opportunity to enhance trade relations by offering India the latest technology, quality mechanisms and safety standards for the industry. A good way to do this would be to set up a food park here with latest technology which can serve as a role model for other (food processing) units in the country. India has already made offers with France for setting up a joint quality-testing lab for processed food in the country.

France, which has a highly evolved food and beverage industry, can also leverage its expertise profitably by investing in India’s fast growing ‘frozen foods’ business. Currently, the Indian frozen food market is estimated at Rs 1,500 crore and is expected to reach Rs 3,750 crore in the next five years, as per the research report by Frost & Sullivan. However, the full potential of the frozen foods is still to be realized in India due to the presence of several impediments. With several French companies having evincing keen interest in investing in India or export to India in the long run, the food processing industry in India stands a good chance of attracting a valuable partner for bringing about a transformational change in the sector.

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