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Central, State-level task forces mooted for food processing

Our Bureau

New Delhi , Aug. 6

THE Government is planning to set up a national level task force and several State-level ones for addressing the problems of the food processing sector.

Announcing this at a seminar organised here by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry, theMinister of State for Food Processing, Mr Subodh Kant Sahai, said these inter-ministerial task forces would comprise the representatives of various ministries including agriculture and industry, chambers and various other stakeholders.

"I want to set up national level and State-level task forces for addressing industry's problems related to banking, infrastructure and other bottlenecks. Also, the Ministry will conduct a comprehensive study on the impact of combined Central and State taxes on the food processing sector. We want to be a facilitating Ministry," he said.

Expressing his disappointment at the lukewarm response to the Ministry's scheme of providing financial aid for setting up food processing units, Mr Sahai exhorted the industry to come forward with more such proposals.

He said the Ministry had already financed 45 Food Parks but their performance had been "unsatisfactory". Nevertheless, the Government is willing to set up more such parks provided private entrepreneurs come forward.

The Minister also said he was in favour of setting up a dedicated `Food Bank', which will finance projects exclusively in this sector and that he had already received a proposal from at least one commercial bank on this issue.

On the long-awaited Integrated Food Law, Mr Sahai said the framework of this law was being worked out and would be laid before the reconstituted Group of Ministers shortly. The Government's endeavour is to create a single law and a single regulatory authority for the entire food processing sector.

He pointed out some of the initiatives taken to aid growth in the sector. These include delicensing of the entire sector except for certain items such as alcoholic beverages and those reserved for small-scale industries, 100 per cent FDI allowed via the automatic route and zero excise duty for processed fruits and vegetables.

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