‘Indian farm produce needs to meet international standards’ – Anantha Padmanabhan, managing director, Alfa Laval (India) Limited

Pune : India is such a nation that produces surplus farm produces like milk, vegetables and fruits and also has ample opportunities in food processing industry, said Anantha Padmanabhan, managing director, Alfa Laval (India) Limited, during a round table discussion. He further added that companies from Sweden and other European countries are ready to provide guidance and technology to farmers so that they can meet international standards in production.

During the discussion ‘Challenges and Opportunities in Food Processing Industry’ organised by The Consulate General of Sweden and The Swedish Chamber of Commerce India, names like Sven Erik Bucht, Minister of Rural Affairs, Sweden and Mahadev Jankar, cabinet minister for animal husbandry and dairy, Maharashtra among others were present.

Ulrika Sundberg, consul general, Consulate General of Sweden in Mumbai informed Free Press Journal, “India has better opportunities in the food processing industry mainly due to two reasons. India has surplus production of not only milk but also spices like saffron, cinnamon and so on. Apart from milk, other produces are untapped resources and European countries including Sweden are in need of these produce. Demand is higher basically. Challenges are to meet international standards of food safety and hygiene and lots should be done to bridge this gap.”

Padmanabhan said, “India produces surplus fruits, milk, vegetables and all agri produce. But only 20 per cent of it is processed. Thus remaining is either used without processing or is simply wasted. We need to tap this.” He continued, “We have better opportunities in exporting this processed agriculture produce. But we need to meet international standards of safety and hygiene in which India lacks. We are here to bring international technology and guidance to farmers so that they can maintain high standards of production.”

Sven Erik Bucht said, “Currently, Indian produce does not meet international standards due to various reasons like excessive use of antibiotics, fertilisers and pesticides. The use of all these should be reduced like we practice in European countries. Farmers should be educated on this and alternative of antibiotics, pesticides should be found out.” More than 180 Swedish companies operate in India and half of them have been here for more than 50 years. Bucht added that these companies are interested in collaboration.

All the members pointed out that many operations and products related to agriculture and food processing industry are included in 12-18 per cent slab of Goods and Service Tax (GST) and hence production cost has gone up. Speaking on government’s side, Mahadev Jankar said, “The government will discuss about reducing GST on farm produce and food processing industry. We will definitely take decision for the benefits of farmers. Maharashtra is second largest producer of milk in India and India is the biggest producer of milk across world. Maharashtra government is trying to get all milk under one dairy. Same will be done for other farm produce like fruits, vegetables and so on.”

Padmanabhan reiterated that there is a major gap between farmers who produce milk, fruits and vegetables, and food processing industry. He added that there is a need to connect with each other. “Currently farmers due to lack of awareness and non-availability of technology, try to use low-grade practices that affect quality of product. This needs to be changed.”

The panelists also touched upon automation and digitisation in the farming sector. They stressed that automation can help Indian farm products to achieve international standards faster. Government’s current efforts of digitisation would bear fruits in long term to achieve this goal.

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