Agriculture and food industry in Bihar has the potential to reach Rs. one lakh crore mark by 2015 with processed food products cornering 45 per cent share as the state is uniquely placed with abundant agro-based raw materials’ available at competitive prices, cattle wealth, water resources and above all a pro-active industrial policy, according to a recently concluded ASSOCHAM study.
“About 15 million tonnes (MT) of cereals comprising rice, wheat, maize along with a wide range of fruits and vegetables are produced in Bihar attracting the global giants and brands in food and beverage segment that are vying to garner prominent share in the state’s agro-food processing sector,” according to a study titled ‘Opportunities for Food Processing in Bihar,’ conducted by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM).
The agriculture and food processing sector in Bihar employs about 80 per cent of the state’s total workforce and contributes over half of the total gross state domestic product (GSDP).
Establishment of a dry port by the UB Group in Bihar would bring down the logistics cost by half in Bihar i.e. from current level of about 16 per cent to eight per cent, noted the study.
“Rapid development of logistical facilities and infrastructure in areas of processing, warehousing and storage, production and others through effective use of modern technology would further propel the growth and development of agro and food processing sector in Bihar,” said Mr D.S. Rawat, national secretary general of ASSOCHAM while releasing the chamber’s study.
“Apart from facilitating import and export, cost efficient logistics management will help Bihar in achieving the much needed competitiveness in both domestic and global markets,” said Mr Rawat. “Besides, for further development of the sector in the state there is a need to ensure that the farmers get a fair price and requisite support on the farm (by way of agricultural extension support) and post-harvest linkages for ensuring optimum price realization.”
Considering that development of food processing industry is directly linked to sustainable agriculture, there is a need to adopt a holistic approach towards agriculture, procurement and development of processing industries close to the production centres, suggested the ASSOCHAM study. “The industry should guide and provide required handholding support to the farmers so that they too become stakeholders in the overall development of food processing industries in the state.”
“Convergence of various schemes announced by both the central and state governments for promotion of food processing industry in Bihar together with establishment of a single window monitoring and facilitation cell for quickly removing the various bottlenecks in setting up food processing units in the state is the need of the hour,” said Mr Rawat. “The slow and tardy progress of land allotment and completion of other formalities in setting up mega food parks in Bihar must be urgently addressed to strengthen the investors’ confidence in this regard.”
The state government needs to focus on creating food parks and promoting food processing units on both public-private partnership (PPP) mode and stand alone private mode through requisite infrastructure for quick transportation of farm produce to processing centres and further movement of finished goods to consuming centres, the study recommended.
Besides, there is also the need to augment capacity building in scientific storage and set up common service centres.
Considering the huge scope for large scale employment generation in the food processing sector, there is a need to impart organized training, promote skill development and placement for rural workforce which will benefit both the industry and rural folks, the study added.
All the aspects of nurturing and promotion of food processing sector in Bihar must be taken care of so that the aforesaid opportunities are realised and the entire industry, varied sections of the society including farmers, work force, students and consumers can enjoy the benefits thereby promoting economic prosperity in the state.