There is a need for multi-dimensional support and nurturing entrepreneurship skills by helping farmers, startups and SMEs in food processing sector in Sikkim, Principal Secretary, Department of Commerce & Industry, Government of Sikkim Arvind Kumar said at ASSOCHAM event held in Gangtok on Thursday.
While addressing the conference on “Linking Startups and SMEs in Food Processing with Government Schemes & Markets” in collaboration with the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, he expressed the need to promote co-operative system and contract farming so as to enable aggregation of holding, production, technology etc. for economic prosperity.
He also emphasized on the need for partnerships for training and competence building marketing, processing, projects and infrastructure development to accelerate growth and development to food processing sector in this region leading to more jobs, incomes and opportunities for the people of this region.
He also suggested diversifying agriculture in Sikkim via organic farming, veterinary, poultry, floriculture etc. He also gave a holistic picture of the Indian Food industry as well as scope of Sikkim to get itself in the forefront. Market linkage is the major problem faced by Sikkim farmers; hence industry associations like ASSOCHAM should focus on building external market linkage for food processing units in Sikkim.
Dr Jyoti Prakash Tamang, Vice Chancellor, Sikkim University, stated north eastern region with agro friendly climate and agrarian roots has potential to be sunrise zone for food processing and other agro business industry. He further added that the geo-climatic situation of Sikkim offers an excellent scope for growing different varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, plantation crops, medicinal and aromatic plants of high economic value.
He also said there is a need to diagnose the problems in the region for providing an improved production and marketing environment and value added economic benefit to farmers through appropriate science and technological policies for various post harvest functions in food processing industry.
Dr Om S Tyagi, Sr. Director, ASSOCHAM in his opening remarks said the food processing industry has made some significant progress in North Eastern region of India.
Areas like – Agro & Horticulture Processing, Processing of Plantation Crops, Animal Husbandry and Meat Processing Industries have been declared as potential area in the promotion of industrial activities in the state of Sikkim.
He further said that focus for development should be on horticulture which is one of the major sector which holds unexplored scope to strengthen the economy of the state of Sikkim.
Rakesh Chitkara, Senior Director, Global Government Affairs, South Asia, Abbott Healthcare Pvt. Ltd., in his welcome address, highlighted that Government of India is promoting the food processing sector in the region to utilize its vast potential of raw horticultural produce.
The startups and SMEs in food processing sector can play a vital role in doubling farmer’s income. He compared Gangtok with many Hill stations and tourist places in Europe and suggested that there is need to create infrastructure for supporting tourist activities.
Dr D R Singh, Director, ICAR, National Research Centre for Orchids (NRC), Sikkim said in his address that agriculture is the main occupation for majority of the populace in this region wherein and experts opine that horticulture is an important sector which has major contributor to the economies of these state.
The state’s economy is largely agrarian. A variety of horticultural and plantation crops are produced in Sikkim like rice, wheat, maize, millet, barley, urad, pea, soya bean, mustard and large cardamom etc. Sikkim produces more cardamom than any other Indian states, and enjoys a monopoly in the production of large cardamom, contributing 85 percent of the total produce in the country. Tea is exported to USSR & Germany. A coffee plantation has also been started at Majitar. Food processing industry especially agro- horticultural based has been identified as a thrust area of development in the state.
P Jayakannan, DGM, NABARD, highlighted financial linkages which are extremely critical for development of food processing entrepreneurship in the state of Sikkim. She focused on the importance of easy loans to the budding entrepreneurs which can boost their morale and motivate them to start more and more projects.