Centre Urges Companies to Buy Vegetables and Foodgrains from Farmers to Reduce Crop Losses

Expressing concern over loss of harvested crops in different parts of the country, the Centre on Wednesday asked industry players to buy perishable vegetables and fruits besides foodgrains to reduce wastage and benefit farmers amid COVID-19-induced lockdown.

Union Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal pointed out this issue in a meeting with members of industry chamber FICCI via video conference called to ascertain the requirement of food processing sector for post-lockdown scenario, an official statement said.

"Badal pointed at the major concern of losing the harvested crops and perishables in different parts of the country. During the conference, the Union Minister requested all members to come forward to procure these harvested wheat, paddy, fruits and vegetables and other perishables so that wastage can be minimized and the farmers are benefited," the statement added.

FICCI Secretary General Delip Chenoy, FICCI Food Processing Committee Chair and CEO-ITC Foods Division Hemant Malik, Amul Managing Director R S Sodhi, Coca Cola India President T Krishnakumar, Cargill India President Simon Geroge, Kellogg India Managing Director Mohit Anand, Mondelez InternationaL President India Deepak Iyer, MTR Foods CEO Sanjay Sharma and Zydus Wellness CEO Tarun Arora were among many others present in the conference.

In the meeting, the Union Minister emphasised on revival of industry operations at full capacity without compromising the safety measures.

She also informed that the task force of the ministry is assisting companies in resolving the challenges faced across the country during the lockdown.

For revival of the industry, Badal agreed to the industry's demand on requirement of detailed guidelines for food companies to operate in containment zones as well as with the idea of 60-75 per cent workers being allowed to operate in facilities if industry was able to ensure necessary measures to protect their workers.

The industry demanded a Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) for operating facilities in different containment zones, dedicated nodal officials for the food processing industry at state levels to address challenges, standardized protocol for issuing worker passes to operate facilities and maintain supply chain besides reevaluating the process of identifying COVID clusters or region, the statement said.

FICCI members mentioned that the food industry was expected to witness growth due to in-home increase in demand of larger value food packs and also shared the industry would start reviving as soon as the supply chain got reestablished.

Food Processing Industries Secretary Pushpa Subrahmanyam asked the companies to share specific issues with the grievance cell.

The food processing industry has been asked to send a working model to the government for considering allowing greater workforce to join the facilities. Suggestions have also been invited to frame a scheme to support the food industry, the ministry said.

The secretary said that the government has already issued required advisories to address the challenges related to logistics, warehouse operations, movement of workers and vehicles etc.

She also thanked the industry players for their support in maintaining the supply of food products in this critical time.