Union food processing industry minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal today appealed to farmers of Punjab to make food processing a mass movement by taking advantage of various ministerial schemes to establish own units, form mini clusters or become a part of mega food parks under the SAMPADA as well as other schemes of the ministry.Addressing an august gathering at the CII here as part of a road show to promote World Food India fair being held in Delhi from November 3 to 5 this year, Mrs Badal said her priority was to help the small farmer become an entrepreneur in his own right by adding value to farm produce. “Keeping this in mind I have started from the base level by helping farmers or clusters of farmers to make Farmer Producer Organisations (FPO). A company has been specially hired for this purpose. The company will not only help in filling up various applications but also hand-hold the farmer organizations for two years to enable them to produce and market their produce effectively. There are some success stories already with Dabur tying up with a Punjab FPO producing honey. We need more such examples to make this a mass movement and I will do my bit by travelling across the State to popularize food processing schemes”, she added.Giving details, Mrs Badal said while 42 food parks had been announced during UPA rule, only two could be operationalised. “We have operationalised six food parks and another four will be functional this year. Punjab and Haryana have been allotted five food parks. We aim to double the income of farmers in the next three years and the SAMPADA scheme which will see an investment of Rs 6,000 crore to give impetus to food processing, will play a major role in this”, she added.
Speaking about WFI fair, the union minister said it was for the first time that every stake holder in food processing, whether national or international, would be present in strength under one umbrella. She thanked Haryana Agriculture minister O P Dhankar for agreeing to become the partner State for WFI. She said WFI would result in joint ventures and could become a vehicle for major investment in the food sector in India. “I appeal to all States to participate in it in a major way”, she added.The Union minister when questioned later by the media, said she was pained that 100 suicides had occurred during 100 days of the Congress government in Punjab. “This has happened because of false promises. Farmers were shown the moon but nothing was done for them after the Congress formed the government. The government is even now trying to mislead farmers in the name of loan waiver. Only crop loan of Rs 1,500 crore is proposed to the waived while the farmers are indebted by Rs 90,000 crore. Farmers who did not pay interest on their loans for several months due to assurances of the Congress party are now being penalized by banks. This is the reason why some farmers have taken desperate measures. Never have farmers been betrayed in such a manner by any elected government in the history of Punjab”, she added.