By Prof. Dr. P. K. Jena in Bhubaneswar, April 1, 2021: India is rich in natural resources such as minerals, forest, ocean, soil and rivers. These resources along with growing skilled man power, have given opportunities for producing and providing various essential requirements for our day to day life and leading an improved standard of living. Since independence, through intensive geological survey, a large number of mineral resources have been located in different parts of the country and mined and utilized for setting of various mineral based industries.

These industries have promoted significant socio-economic developments and provided a lot of employment opportunities for our people. On the other hand, though with some scientific and technological inputs our agricultural, animal husbandry and marine produces have been increased substantially, but the required infrastructure, application of better technology and skilled manpower for developing related agro industries, have not made any significant advancement compared to other developed countries. For example, it is reported that, while about 14% of total work force in developed countries are engaged in agro industrial sectors, in India, only about 3% of work force find employment in this vital sector.

Nearly 70% of people in India live in rural areas and mostly depend on agriculture for their livelihood. In developed world, due to mechanization, and application of modern technology, in agricultural sector comparatively much less number of labourers are engaged in required food production making it less expensive. Further, in these countries, network of agro based industries provide better employment opportunities and thus enhance their living standard. It is widely realized that, in India, poverty elimination by providing right type of employment and effecting economic development in a similar manner in rural areas is essential.

In India, in recent years, though agricultural production in different sectors is increasing at a comparatively faster rate, but due to back dated harvesting and storage practices, nearly 25 to 30% of agricultural produce are wasted. For developing the agro industries, the first and foremost task should be to have enough good grade raw materials. The environmentally friendly process for cultivation to produce more crops should take into consideration of improving the fertility of the soil by mostly using organic fertilizers like compost and also using organic pesticides.

It may be mentioned here that, application of too much chemical fertilizers and pesticides as being done now a days, is causing a lot of harm to the soil as well as the nearby water bodies and also the flora and fauna. The amount of organic wastes generated from domestic, agricultural and other sources can be processed to produce sufficient amounts of compost to meet the requirements of farmers in the locality.

The sewage sludge and human excreta should also be suitably processed to be used as manure. Further, by undertaking large scale plantation of trees like neem, karanj and cultivating haldi (turmeric), garlic etc., sufficient amounts of organic pesticides can be produced from these to utilize for agricultural purposes. The other problem faced by the farmers is dearth of water for irrigation in summer and winter seasons. Through harvesting rain water both on surface and in ground in small scale at suitable sites near agricultural fields, it would be possible to meet the water requirements throughout the year for irrigation and also for subsequent food processing units.

Problems of Agro Industries

The agro industries in India are facing several problems related to availability of proper infrastructure, storage facilities, skilled personnel, appropriate technology, financial assistance and market.

Most of the educated youths of India because of their limited knowledge about the scope of agro industries and financial and other related problems including production technology, storage etc. do not venture to start any such industry. Further, they are also completely unaware of the market situation, mechanism to sell their products in nearby areas and availing assistance of government and other concerned agencies. The smaller agro industries also face stiff competition for marketing their products particularly when bigger industries come into picture.

Sometimes the entrepreneurs have to go through a lot of difficulties and pay more to avail infrastructural facilities including land, proper equipments, suitable transportation system etc. in time and also face lots of problems for procuring the proper raw materials and sending the finished products to open market. Many times, agro industries face management problems due to absence of professional manager in their units and sometimes lack of cooperation of the partners due to vested interest.

This may cause ultimately litigation among the partners and result in malfunctioning of the units. In some cases also the entrepreneurs divert funds to some other areas like building houses, conducting marriage in the family etc, affecting seriously the production due to financial constraint. Sometimes the agro based industries do not employ right number of skilled manpower and this affects the quality and productivity as well as profitability.

Further, in some cases dissatisfaction due to want of proper work culture in the unit, results in idle man power causing high production cost. The use of back dated technology results in inferior products and high cost. The inferior products thus produced do not receive good market. In addition to these, many times, particularly the small agro industries face problems like non availability of raw materials and also dispatch of committed finished goods in time. Further, due to lack of storing space also the production is affected considerably.

Steps for Promoting Agro Industries

In order to promote agro industries it is necessary to rectify certain existing problems. In this regard, some suggestions given below need due consideration.

(1) It has been reported that, in many cases like rice, wheat, sugarcane and milk, the production in India in recent years, has been quite satisfactory. However, on account of poor post harvest management, the losses in agricultural produce in the country is very high. It has been estimated that, the post production loses in food commodities is to the tune of 75 to 100 thousand crores of rupees per annum. These losses are caused during storage, handling and transportation. It is reported that, the extents of losses can be brought down to less than 50% of the existing level by adopting proper agro processing technology and transfer system and the rest 50% can be also saved by developing proper infrastructural facilities like grain storage structures, cold stores and processing systems.

(2) In order to facilitate the creation of favourable atmosphere for agro industries, required financial assistance, supply of proper raw materials, infrastructure, appropriate technology, skilled manpower, prompt transportation and marketing of finish goods are essential. Therefore efforts should be made to take necessary steps in the above areas to promote the industries.

(3) In village or panchayat level, unemployed persons should be identified and trained in skill development centers to be employed in different agro industries which are to be set up in the area.

(4) The government should take active part in developing a transparent mechanism to promote these industries. Keeping in view the existing problems, the State Government should take into account the past experience regarding failure of many agro industries in their area and take necessary measures to rectify those, otherwise the entrepreneurs as well as the unemployed youths will not come forward with confidence to participate in this endeavor.

(5) For each specific agro based unit, “Package Deal” by the state government may go a long way in promoting these industries in a successful manner. The ‘Package Deal’ for a particular industry should comprise of necessary permission for land, providing infrastructural facilities, finance, water, electricity, supply of raw materials, appropriate technology for production of finish goods, transportation and their marketing. This would help considerably small entrepreneurs to start the industries in a minimum period without much delay and financial escalation.

(6) Besides providing market facilities to these industries, both in India and abroad, the government should provide most recent technology in respective areas and extend quality control facilities. In order to improve the technology for agro industries keeping in view the global trend, government should motivate the concerned science and technology organizations in the country to take up R & D work in different agro processing areas.

To expedite the growth of agro industries, it is suggested to set up District Agro Industries Corporation (DAIC) and this corporation should have the responsibility in identifying agro industries projects particularly based on the raw materials available in the region while creating necessary infrastructural facilities, identifying and training local entrepreneurs.

The DAIC should not only monitor implementation of projects but also assist the entrepreneurs in getting raw materials, infrastructure facilities and services, transport and market for the products. In this way, agriculture and agro industries should go side by side and provide enough employment opportunities and thus can improve considerably the socio economic conditions of the villagers. In this task, the local as well as state and central governments have a great role to play.

Adopting eco friendly “Processes for production of Crops” along with applying suitable post harvest technology and setting up related agro industries in rural areas of India, it can be possible to improve the socio economic conditions of rural people and thus inhibiting inflow of unemployed rural mass to urban areas.

• Former Director General, CSIR, India

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