The food processing sector is going to be on the driving seat of the Indian economy and will contribute significantly in the country's GDP, food processing minister Subodh Kant Sahai said on Friday.
Sahai, who has been elevated to the Cabinet rank, assumed charge of the ministry of food processing industries for the second time. Earlier, he was handling the same ministry as minister of state (independent charge).
"The food processing sector is going to be on the driving seat of the Indian economy in the next five years. By the end of this fiscal, the sector is going to contribute a sizable amount in the GDP," Sahai told reporters after taking charge.
He said in the 100-days agenda, the ministry would target a 20 per cent growth rate in the sector.
Sahai also expressed confidence that the ministry would achieve the target of attracting investments to the tune of Rs 1,00,000 crore (Rs 1,000 billion) in the food processing sector by 2015.
To accelerate growth in the sector similar to IT, Sahai said he will soon meet state ministers and would discuss on creating a separate food processing policy. "The target is to take the food processing sector on the path of IT sector".
He pointed out that there is a need for making a road map and ensuring on how the government and the ministry's policies are investment friendly as it entails industralisation of rural sector.
On achieving the target of setting up 30 mega food parks in the 11th Plan period (2007-2012), Sahai said, "I think in two years we will be able to do it."
During the current economic meltdown, Sahai said food processing is the only sector where there was no lay offs.
"This is the only sector where not a single person has lost his job...if there was any new job it was in the food processing and agriculture sector," he added.
The minister emphasised on expanding the scope of work under the food processing ministry.
"(The) food processing ministry needs to be complete as earlier issue of food authority were resolved on political level. I will try that the prime minister focus on this issue and make it a complete ministry," he added.
Enacting of an integrated food law and launch of mega food park are two milestones during his last term. However, he could not retain the power to implement the new law, which was handed over to the health ministry.