The food processing business in Goa is still in its nascent stage. The small size of agricultural land holdings in the State does not help matters. Joseph D’Souza, chairman, Food Processing Committee, GCCI, spoke to AJIT JOHN about the challenges on hand for the industry in the State
What is the state of the food processing business in Goa?
Food processing as an activity is picking up. I must admit at a slower pace than in neighbouring territories but it is surely picking up at an assured pace. The market for processed food is growing and the consciousness for natural food is also growing. That gives an advantage to people in the food processing business in the State. Food and vegetable processing is growing, along with sea food, cashew nuts which is big volume, mango, kokum are picking up.
Which part of Goa is the business located or is it all over?
The drawback is that in Goa it is fragmented, we do not have anything close to a cluster formation. The activities are tiny when compared to the other states. If you take one district in Maharashtra for eg Konkan district, the amount of mango that is grown there for example will be many times over what is grown in the whole of Goa. A district’s output outside Goa is usually larger than the yield of Goa. Same holds good for fishing, the entire coast of 104 to 105 kms, quantum of fish that is harvested is far less than what Malpe or Ratnagiri fishing port would handle. We have seven jetties and all of them put together do not do as much as them.
: What are the challenges you face on the ground?
Labour. For every agriculture related activity in Goa, we depend on labour from outside Goa. Till today there are some trawlers which have not sailed because their crew have not returned from their holidays. They were supposed to return in August. Same happens will all agricultural activities. We do not have sufficient labour. Kerala is also dependent on labour but the intensity of the labour is so high they can retain the labour. Our activities are seasonal, so the labour required for the mango season, the cashew season all clash at the same time. The rest of the year we have no harvesting at all.
In terms of government policy what would you like to see happen?
At this juncture I do not want to comment on government policy, a matter of concern is fish farmers who want to bring in fish fingerlings have been asking their director as well as the director of the FDA to clarify to the border check post that what they are bringing to the border is not fish which would come under the ban. It is more than a week neither of these two directors are able to issue any sort of clarification circular to the RTO and the check post.
The delay maybe because they are busy, maybe they don’t perceive it to be a priority or because it does not affect them but the farmer. Maybe they just don’t have the time to look at farmers issues because they are overwhelmed with the issues of their offices. If this is the kind of attitude then I wonder what kind of processing industry can develop here. Everything is interlinked. If there is no vibrant farming there cannot be any processing. Farming in abundance makes processing viable. Processing is generally from the surplus. For this to happen the farmer has to be encouraged. Farmers in Goa are facing a tough time.
Why does Goa not have any food processing parks?
: There has to be a minimum land mass of 50 hectares for such zones which has been now reduced. It is like having an industrial estate only for food processing. If it is not large enough then it will be a white elephant and good it has not happened. We do not have that kind of mass in terms of raw materials.
Where do you see this industry if it ever takes off in the next five to ten years?
Not too far from where it is now because as far as Goa is concerned realty gets priority over any other industry with regards to land usage. There is little hope for food processing.