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Agrofood Chamber Seeks Southern States to be Designated as ‘Food Processing Hubs’

There are agro-food processing industries in Madurai and other southern districts such as Theni, Dindigul, Virudhunagar, Ramanathapuram, Tirunelveli, and Thoothukudi that specialize in value-added products such as dal, flour, edible oil, rice and wheat products, dairy, vegetables and fruits processing, and millet products.

Abha Toppo
Food Processing Unit
Food Processing Unit

According to the Madurai-based Agrofood Chamber of Commerce and Industry's pre-budget memorandum for Tamil Nadu Agriculture Budget 2022-23, as the State government seeks to put a stronger emphasis on development of many regions other than Chennai, southern districts in Tamil Nadu should be declared as a food processing hub because they have enormous potential.

There are agro-food processing industries in Madurai and other southern districts such as Theni, Dindigul, Virudhunagar, Ramanathapuram, Tirunelveli, and Thoothukudi that specialize in value-added products such as dal, flour, edible oil, rice and wheat products, dairy, vegetables and fruits processing, and millet products.

Food Processing Hubs

"We suggest that the government proclaim these areas as food processing centres and announce a separate policy with special awards to entice global food processors to launch their manufacturing activities in these districts," said S Rethinavelu, President of the Agrofood Chamber.

The Chamber has also recommended that the prospects for producing high-value-added goods from the palmyra tree be investigated. Though many plans to protect and grow Palmyra trees were announced in last year's Agri budget, the government should expand the focus to encourage the manufacture of value-added goods.

"All of the goods we receive from the palmyra tree, such as sweet toddy (pathaneer), ice apple (nungu), palmyra tuber (panam kilangu), palmyra fruit (panam pazham), palmyra candy (panangkalkandu), and palmyra black bar (panam karupatti), have extremely high medicinal values. But we have not explored further, with intensive research, to process high value-added products,” he said.

Because collecting pathaneer in open mud pots attracts beetles and insects, making it unsanitary, modern scientific methods must be used to extract palmyra nectar hygienically in "temperature-controlled vacuum pouches" without it fermenting at atmospheric temperature. Such vacuum pouches have been successfully designed by a few private research institutes.

This research is also being conducted by members of the Agrofood Chamber. Researchers should be encouraged to develop suitable pouches. Rapid development is possible if this project is promoted through the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode.

The chamber recommended that palmyra trees be grown on a large scale in horticultural plantations. It is unclear whether the palmyra tree is associated with the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Horticulture.

Millets Cultivation Zones:

As the global demand for millets grows, now is an excellent time for Tamil Nadu, which produces a large number of millets, to promote the export of value-added millet products from the state by encouraging farmers.

"Millet cultivation is common in southern districts like Virudunagar, Ramanathapuram, Theni, Madurai, and Dindigul." As a result, he believes that by designating these five districts as "Millets Cultivation Zones" and providing special subsidies to them, farmers' incomes will increase and they will be able to become exporters. The Chamber also advocated for the establishment of a Pulses Development Board (PDB) in Tamil Nadu, similar to those established for cardamom, coffee, and spices, to increase cultivation and marketing.

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