Minister for Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal said on Thursday that her recent trip to the UK has been successful and lot of international retail and food processing companies have evinced interest to enter India into joint venture with the India companies.
The minister also added that they are looking to organise a World Food Summit in the month of March 2017, to showcase the entire farm-to-fork process, and invite global players to participate.
“The FDI in multi brand retail that we have opened up recently has the entire globe looking at us an attractive investment destination. In my last trip to the UK, I received an overwhelming response from the international players who are keen to enter the India market. They are also keen to source more from India. They just need that push and I’am very aggressively going to all these companies to make sure that we get all of them here,” Badal said while addressing the media at India Retail Forum 2016, which is currently underway in Mumbai.
In June 2016, the Government allowed 100 per cent FDI in trading of food products, including through e-commerce, to boost food processing sector in the country. Badal has been aggressively pushing to showcase India’s food retail sector to the international market. She recently meet the heads of retail and food processing companies including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Harrods, Marks & Spencer and Cobra Beer in the UK to attract foreign investment in the country.
While the Government has allowed 100 per cent FDI in food retailing, it has dropped plans to include some general merchandise such as soaps and shampoos in the policy. This is one of the main points of complaint against the policy as food alone does not make it worthwhile for retailers to make huge investments.
“While world-wide model does allow other products than food, Indian culture is quite different. In the western world you will probably go for grocery shopping and stock it for the entire week but in India the concept of buying goods and putting in the freezer is mot there. Indians are still buying food every day. So the model of food can work in India, even if it doesn’t in the rest of the world,” she said explaining the rationale behind keeping non-food categories out.
“The World Food Summit is further going to give a fillip to the investment,” she said.
“With this summit, we intend to invite retailers, manufacturers, logistics to the progressive farmers and the entire gamut which is in the food industry. The byline is going to be transforming the India’s food economy. We will call different countries to participate in the summit, where every state in India will showcase what all they have not only in terms of offering that they have but there policies as well,” she said, adding that: “The Government will hopefully announce lot of policies during that summit which will further improve the business as a whole.”
The summit will also have food streets where Indian states will showcase their street food.
The minister also acknowledges that the food processing sector has been growing faster than manufacturing and agriculture in the last few years. But there have been issues related to infrastructure and wastage that the minister is looking to address.
“Yes, there are issues in terms of infrastructure challenges that my ministry is working on from the past few months. Now with retail being tied up to this, the infrastructure will be improved further. We are also looking at creating lot of infrastructure at the farm level as there is a lot of food wastage in perishables,” she said.
The ministry is pushing the opening of 42 food parks, which were sanctioned by the earlier Government in 2008, but was unable to open more than two food parks until 2014.
“When I took over, only two mega food parks were operational. But since then we are trying to cut down on all the dead woods who had no intentions to set up the food parks and we had to re-start on lot of cases. But I am glad that today 27 of them are the various stages of completion, out of which eight have been operationalised and four will be done very shortly, with one being in Maharashtra. And our aim is that in 18-24 months, all 38 of them should be operational,” she said.
She also said that the Central Government was looking to double food processing levels from 10 per cent now to 20 per cent by the end of its five-year term.
“Once five years of this Government are up, the food processing levels which are at 10 per cent should at least have reached 20 per cent,” Badal concluded.