Emphasising that there is still a sizeable gap between farm and fork, President Ram Nath Kovind today said justice must be done with the growers to make their lives better.
Addressing the first convocation of the National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM) at Sonepat in Haryana, the president also stressed on the need of providing benefits of global food trade to farm and farmers of the country.
Kovind also wondered why advantages of human talent and low cost as in the case of services sector cannot be replicated in agriculture and agro-based industries.
"In our country, there is still a sizeable gap between the farm and the fork. This gap is not just a matter of prices or of technology. It is also a gap of justice - justice that we as a society must do to our fellow citizens who toil in far-flung farms," said president while addressing the gathering here.
The president noted, "as a society and as people, we are obligated to make life better for our farmers and to free them from the fickleness of nature and of weather patterns - and to the degree possible, of the unpredictability of demand and supply. This is the resolve of the government, and it has instituted policies and programmes to further this. Use of science and technology along the food chain is essential to these programmes. And this is where institutions such as NIFTEM and those who graduate from here will play a vital role."
He said Indian food and grocery market, which was the world's sixth largest, was expected to touch USD one trillion by 2025.
Food items constitute over 11 per cent of the country's exports. To take this sector to the next level, the government has sanctioned 42 mega food parks, Kovind further said.
"Today, our country is the world's largest producer of milk. It is the second largest producer of rice, wheat, fruits and vegetables, sugarcane and tea. The third largest producer of eggs and sixth largest producer of meat," he further said.
The president praised farmers for their determination and commitment.
In the services sector, India has taken advantage of its enormous human talent and lower cost structures to build world-class industries, Kovind noted.
"There is no reason why we cannot replicate this in agriculture and in food and agro-based industries. Indian farm products - whether rice, milk, fruits and vegetables, or even chillies - can flood supermarkets and feed households across the globe. This can help us create numerous employment opportunities for our young people - in cold storages and in preservation, in food processing and along the food supply chain," the president said in his address.
In recent decades, the global food trade has undergone revolutionary changes, Kovind said, adding that there is a need to bring the benefits of these changes - and the potential of this trade - to every "khet (farm) and every kisaan (farmer)".
Noting that the demand for the packaged food products had been growing, he said maintaining quality and safety of such food items, up to the global bench-marks, still remained a challenge.
Demand for packaged and ready-to-eat food products is rising in India as social habits are changing and nuclear families emerging in larger numbers in cities, he noted.
The challenge is to maintain quality, safety and labelling standards for food and ingredients that are up to global bench-marks. It is to make certain that packaged foods promote both convenience and health. And that they keep alive the nutritious grains and traditional food items that can be found in every state of India, Kovind said.
"It is for the food industry to innovate and find easy-to-use solutions to the epidemic of lifestyle diseases in our country. And we have to do all this while being conscious of building our own brands, especially for traditional and nutritive food items that have been the pride of India for centuries and can reach far greater consumers at home and abroad," the president said.
He also presented degree to students on this occasion.
Haryana governor Kaptal Singh Solanki, Union Minister for food processing industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Union Minister of State for Food Processing Industries, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Women and Child Development Minister Kavita Jain were also present.