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AEZs to be launched next week in Kerala

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The AEZs will cover 16,000 farmers with a total area of 4,000 hectares in the State. The export market of ethnic food to Keralites residing abroad itself is estimated approximately at Rs 500 crore per annum.

KOCHI, Feb. 26

FIVE agricultural export zones (AEZs) in nine districts of the State will be formally launched at Thiruvananthapuram on March 5, according to Mr P.H. Kurien, the State Industries Secretary.

Inaugurating a workshop on Food Safety and Quality Management through HACCP and SQF 2000 organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Kerala here on Wednesday, Mr Kurien said that launching of the AEZs would give a tremendous boost to the food-processing sector in the State. The Centre has announced the launch of AEZs for banana, pineapple and ethnic vegetables in the State, he said.

He said that the concept of AEZs attempts to take a comprehensive look at a particular produce/ product located in a contiguous area for the purpose of developing and sourcing the raw materials, their processing/ packaging and leading to final exports.

The entire effort is centred on the cluster approach of identifying the potential products, the geographical region in which these products are grown and adopting an end-to-end approach of integrating the entire process right from the stage of production till it reaches the market.

This involves convergence of all the efforts take by Central and State governments, other agencies involved and exports and private agencies. One of the advantages of AEZ is that the credit at concession rates would be made available to farmers at 8 per cent interest by NABARD through Co-operative institutions and commercial banks, he said. The AEZs will cover 16,000 farmers with a total area of 4,000 hectares in the State. Mr Kurien said the export market of ethnic food to Keralites residing abroad itself would be approximately Rs 500 crore per annum.

The State Government has identified food processing as the thrust sector and it is expected to announce comprehensive agro industrial policy focusing on financial assistance including re-finance facilities. This will be in addition to the schemes of the Centre, he said.

"It is essential for the Indian food industry to adapt to international food safety requirements and guidelines under HACCP to tap the export market, he added.

Mr V. Rajagopal, General Manager, Kerala Bureau of Industrial Promotion (K-Bip), said that the K-Bip was the nodal agency for HACCP Certification. The State Government, he said, offered financial assistance up to Rs 10 lakh for HACCP certification.

The certification, he said, would enable industry in various sectors such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish, spices, nuts, cereals, bakery confectionery, restaurants, hotels and fast food products to benchmark with international standards and to explore the export market.

Dr M.K. Mukundan, Dr P.T. Lakshmanan and Dr K. Ashok Kumar of CIFT-ICAR, Ms D. Jayanthi of SGS India Limited and Mr K. Sasikumar of Elite Foods made presentations. Mrs Pamela Anna Mathew, Chairperson, CII (Kerala) and Mr T.R. Reghulal (CII) also spoke on the occasion.

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AEZs to be launched next week in Kerala

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