How Natural Calamities in India have Transformed Food Processing Industry

Last two decades in India has witnessed many natural calamities.  This has changed the landscape of horticulture and agriculture.

On one hand we have witnessed growth in the horticulture produce and on the other hand draught in pockets of India, unprecedented rains, ever changing weather patterns, floods have increased the problems of farmers. Adding to these problems are the internal and individual issues of farmers; bank loans, small size of farm lands creating more and more marginal farmers which have added to the problems.

Poor marketing policies, growing input costs, the middle men and the wholesale markets controlling the prices for the products has always put the farmer in a precarious position.

To add to all this is the present worldwide pandemic the deadly COVID 19 (Corona) which has really broken the back of marginal as well as farmers having bigger horticulture orchards. With the complete lockdown in the country, the entire economy has come to a complete standstill. Though there is some silver lining on the dark gloom of COVID 19 it will take quite some time for the economy to creep back to normal.

100’s and 1000’s farmers are destroying their produce for the lack of transportation, manpower for harvesting and the markets literally shut down. Exports of fresh produce has come to a complete stop, added to that is the recent fiasco in the Dubai Diera fruit and vegetable market, where a firm has cheated the food exporters to the tune of 810 tonnes of bananas, grapes and coconuts, which has a created a sense of tension in the farmers, consolidators, exporters, economists and the policy makers alike.

The woes of the farmers are humongous and cannot be solved overnight. Unfortunately the system and the politics has made them crippled over the time. The disparity in the life style has made the young generation to move to the nearby cities with an ambition and urge to have a better life style.

Taking into account of all the uncertainties of life the time has come that the rural India becomes more self-reliant, financially independent and create more entrepreneurs in the MSME sector.

Way forward

Create more and more collection centers in the respective areas by forming producer companies.

Start cold chains and distribution centers (primary processing centers)

Start small and medium fruit and vegetable processing units in their respective areas.

Think out of the box for such units and enter in to niche’ market. There are a host of such MSME options that can be setup by willing entrepreneurs in food processing for fruits and vegetable sector. We have seen a large spurt in interest of entrepreneurs looking to setup food processing units across India. Also it has to be understood that the needs of the Indian market and palates are very unique and western models cannot be replicated here and so its easier for the Indian entrepreneurs who are familiar with local tastes and food practices to setup such plants than any MNC entering the Indian market.

Why the need now more than ever?

This pandemic has and will bring more changes in the life style even in the big and small cities world over. The entire populace will opt for more clean and hygienic products, may it be fresh fruits and vegetables or processed fruits and vegetables. People will look for immunity boosting food, organic food and other healthy options. This will help the farmers overcome the erratic and fluctuating market prices through a backward integration to the industry. A sustainable minimum price for their produce and the job creation in their vicinity can help the rural India and economy to boost and also increase their financial position. Low cost of raw material and better storage options ensures that raw material is available throughout the year. We can discuss in detail on the host of new opportunities available for entrepreneurs who could be interested to setup business units with budgets ranging from Rs.50lakhs to upwards of Rs.5Cr.

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About the Author: Sunil Sadawarte

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