National Cold Chain Summit organised by Indian Chamber of Commerce was held in Guwahati recently
Northeastern states have the potential to emerge as the Food basket of India through focussed intervention by relevant Ministries and State Governments, said Gen. (Retd.) Dr. V.K Singh, Minister of State (Independent Charge), DoNER, GoI today at National Cold Chain Summit organised by Indian Chamber of Commerce, (ICC), in association with the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, (MoFPI), Government of India. Gen. (Retd.) Dr. V.K Singh spoke of the huge untapped potential that the entire NE region holds in many areas, especially in the field of agriculture and horticulture and the need to harness the same.
He stressed that there was need to facilitate ease of setting up of business in the region and assured that the Central government is proactively working towards that objective. General Singh also highlighted the need to create a matrix of hotspots that would serve to build proper linkages from the farm to the consumer. He stressed on the Government of India’s initiative to promote the NE region as an organic hub and expressed confidence that with proper planning and impetus the NE region would surely fulfill its potential and not only become self sufficient in food but also emerge as the Food Basket of India.
Nilamani Sen Deka, Minister of Agriculture, Horticulture & Food Processing, Government of Assam, spoke of the success story in the field of agriculture and horticulture in Assam. He emphasised on the fact that the State which was earlier having food deficit is today food surplus, having more that 20 lakh Metric Tonne surplus of just horticulture products. Inspite of this tremendous achievement, the farmers of the State continued to suffer due to lack of adequate storage and cold chain facilities. He urged the GoI to look into the matter sympathetically and provide the necessary impetus to bridge the gap between farm and consumer. He thanked the Central Government’s initiative to announce setting up of an Agriculture Research Institute in the State and was hopeful that with the coming together of all stakeholders the NE region would be successful in realising its potential in the agriculture and horticulture sectors.
Siraj Hussain, Secretary, Ministry of Food Processing Industry, Govt. of India also spoke on the occasion and thanked the Ministry of DoNER for its proactive initiative to assist MoFPI in helping the growth of agriculture and horticulture business in the NE region. Mr. Hussain also sought support from Ministry of DoNER in increasing the budgetary allocation for Cold Chain projects in Northeast region. He further emphasised on the need for continuation of financial assistance & subsidy towards Cold chain sector as it supports farmers, livelihood, job creation in the rural and under developed areas and also helps in controlling inflation.
Earlier M. K Saharia, Chairman, ICC-NE Initiative, in his opening remarks highlighted the fact that in spite of India being one of the top three producers of agriculture & horticulture products in the world remained a country with one of the highest wastage of farm products. This is mainly due to lack of cold storage facilities and absence of cold chain infrastructure due to which perishable items are not suitably preserved resulting in losses to both the producing farmers as well as depriving the end consumer good agricultural products. He stressed that although organisations like APEDA and the National Horticulture Board, (NHB), are doing good work in improving the agriculture and horticulture scenario by taking a lot of proactive initiatives, much more needs to be done by giving impetus to private enterprise.
General Singh released a Knowledge report on Cold Chain sector prepared by ICC which was mandated by Ministry of Food Processing. The report highlights the potential, challenges and suggestions on improvement in the Cold Chain scenario in India.
Manav Suri, Vice-President-Cold Chain Operations, Suri Agro Fresh presented details of his company which is in the business of providing Cold Chain facilities over four generations now. He spoke of the challenges like rising real estate costs, lack of infrastructure, high energy costs, uneven distribution of capacity and delays in obtaining statutory clearances etc. Which are hampering the growth of cold chains and cold storage units all over the country but was optimistic that with the renewed support and initiatives from Govt. agencies like MoFPI and NHB the situation would improve in the coming years.
Nagahari Krishna L, Director, Strategic Initiatives and Industry Affair, Danfoss Industries Private Limited, which is a company of Danish origin having more than 82 years of experience of working in the refrigeration industry, spoke of his experience of visiting a strawberry farm in a remote location about 40kms from Guwahati and how in spite of the difficult conditions have been successful in establishing a cold storage facility. He stressed on the need to create awareness among farmers to educate them that wastage can be easily avoided by employing cold storage facilities. He also spoke of the huge employment opportunities that cold chain processes generate in any area for the benefit of local population and therefore they should be encouraged by the various Govt. agencies.
The Summit was attended by over 200 delegates including over 40 Companies from outside North East regions. Most of these companies expressed their desire to invest in Cold chain and related projects. There was also enthusiastic response from local entrepreneurs who expressed their keenness to work closely with national level organisations towards setting-up of cold chains, food processing units and supporting projects.
ICC will also prepare a Recommendation Note on Cold Chains sector based on the deliberations at the Summit and submit it to Ministry of DoNER, Ministry of Food Processing and all NE States.