The four-day trade fair being held at Chennai Trade Centre is running on a full stomach. Snack packs tumble out of packaging machines. The aroma of baked goods and roasting meats waft enticingly through the exhibition hall.
According to Chief Secretary L.K. Tripathy ,these products are part of an agri-business boom that can take the processed foods from their current two per cent of all foods produced in the country to a healthy 10 per cent.
Inaugurating the Confederation of Indian Industry event on Saturday, Tripathy was reported that food processing could not only increase the longevity of perishable foods and prevent wastage but could also give the State's farmers higher profit margins through value addition. The idea is to increase the level of value addition from the current seven per cent to 30 per cent, he said.
The Alfa Laval, sector in the State is able to grow at 15 per cent says the minister. "When the consumer is able to pay more, the margin available to the farmer through value addition should go up", he added.
Yet several of the large food processing machinery suppliers exhibiting their products at the fair believe that the immediate future in food processing belongs to large corporate players. They realize that the agricultural community needs to pull up its socks to tap the potential of the industry.
"The big problem is the availability of large amounts of consistent quality raw material," V.K. Mohan, general manager of Alfa Laval, which focuses on machinery for fruit juices and pulps, informs.
Dinesh Aggarwal, who heads the food processing machinery division at Voltas, supports him. "Take pomegranates. There could be a large market for the processed fruit. But for a plant processing three tonnes an hour, you need raw material of 10 tonnes an hour. Where do you go for that quantity of good fruit?" he queries.
Agricultural and dairy cooperatives are also seen at the fair. They were scouting for ways to increase value addition and profits on their own terms. "We intend to double our value-added products...Indigenous sweets are the biggest market," says I.R. Ramalinga Gowda, managing director, Karnataka Milk Federation, the country's second largest dairy cooperative.
These issues will be food for thought at the FoodPro conference on "Driving the Agri Revolution," which will be held at the same venue on November 26 and 27. Over 120 exhibitors, hailing from eight countries will be participating in the fair, which hopes to see 3,000 business visitors and 30,000 trade visitors.