Senior executives of the packaged food industry have urged the Central government to allow operations of food processing factories in containment zones. They said that there is a need for detailed guidelines in the form of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to enable them to operate their factories, which produce essential products, in containment zones.

Key executives, who interacted with the Minister of Food Processing Harsimrat Badal on Tuesday included Hemant Malik Chair, FICCI Food Processing Committee and CEO-ITC Foods Division; T Krishnakumar, President at Coca Cola India & South West Asia; Mohit Anand, Managing Director Kellogg India & South Asia; Deepak Iyer, President-India, Mondelez International; Sanjay Sharma, CEO, MTR Foods and RS Sodhi, Managing Director, Amul among others.

Union Minister Badal on Wednesday tweeted, “Held an extensive and constructive discussion with the industry captains from across the country to chalk out a holistic roadmap for the food processing sector to cater the new world post Covid-19.”

The senior industry executives in a video-conferencing, held under the aegis of industry chamber FICCI, also told Ministry that 60-70 per cent of workers should be allowed to work at food factories with adherence of safety and hygiene protocols to ramp up capacities for essential food products.

Other demands

Currently, food factories are operating with workforce in the range of 20-50 per cent depending on the location of their plants. Industry has been urging the government to allow the entire value chain to operate due to challenges being faced to procure raw materials, packaging materials and worker movement.

Some other key demands from the industry included appointment of nodal officials for the food processing industry at state level, standardized protocol for issuing worker passes to operate facilities and maintain supply chain, among others.

Union Minister Badal expressed concerns about wastage of harvested crops and perishables at different parts of the country and asked the industry to focus on procuring harvested wheat, paddy, fruits and vegetables, and other perishables so that wastage can be minimized as well as the farmers are benefitted.

The Ministry has now asked the industry to give it a working model that the government can take into consideration before framing an SOP for higher number of workers to be allowed to work at food factories.

A working model was also invited from the industry for the Government to consider allowance for greater workforce to join the facilities. Suggestions were also invited from the members to frame a scheme to support the food industry.

The Food Processing Ministry has set up a task force and grievance cell to help solve issues being faced by the industry during the lockdown put in place to curb the Covid-19 spread.