Monday, August 24, 2009


In a free economy innovations are supposed to be generated in the private sector and under the WTO regime intellectual property protection protocols help the industry to invest on R & D to reap benefits later. But in a developing country the food processing sector is invariably weak with hardly any resources to invest in research. Look at India where more than 90% funding for research comes from the government presumably hoping that the benefits will flow to the user industry. Unfortunately results of such public investments are there to see with most research institutions becoming moribund and their very existence does not make any difference to the industry which is starved of the much needed technological inputs. In contrast many developed countries still pour money on R & D projects for the common benefit of the industry.

Australian government recently announced an investment of $ 6.4 million on a slew of technology improvement programs that could benefit the entire spectrum of food processing in that country. "The 15 businesses cover a range of food industries, including seafood, nuts, dairy, vegetables and meat, within a number of regional economies in Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, NSW, Queensland and Western Australia. Projects include installing laser-guided cutting 'robots' to maximize yield and efficiency in a slaughter room and adopting innovative chestnut-peeling equipment, to bring offshore processing back to Australia".

It is not that GOI does not 'spend' money but whether it serves the purpose for which grants are made is a million dollar question. Several years ago GOI made a grant of Rs 50 million for a Food Engineering Center at Mysore with the avowed purpose of upgrading the engineering infrastructure and strengthen the design capability in the country so as to stimulate development of newer and efficient equipment for the benefit of food industry. After more than a decade and a half there is no evidence that it did make any difference at all for the processing sector. All that remains to day is a museum containing some imported equipment while the industry is groping in the dark for want of indigenously designed machinery at affordable cost to process some of the traditional foods.


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