By Vilas B Bhangui
The cold chain industry is directly linked to the agriculture. Goa is a state where we lack very much on the agricultural production front. We are mostly dependent for our horticulture produce and vegetables on our neighboring states of Karnataka and Maharashtra on daily basis.
Till date there is only one large cold storage of 2500 tons capacity which is mainly serving Nestle India Ltd, for their storage of raw materials for the production of Maggi Ketchup and Maggi Cubes.
This unit was set up in the year 2004, with a vision that the government formed Horticulture Corporation would procure fruits and vegetables for distributions during the crop season as and when available at a low rate and market the produce during off-season for the benefit of the consumers in the state.
But the vision did not materialize as the state preferred a system of daily procurement from neighbouring states.
Unfortunately the state government did not pay much attention to the agriculture sector as mining and tourism along with the pharmaceutical industries was the focus point of the government.
Goa has only two main crops; coconut and paddy along with a small seasonal crop of mango and jackfruit. Due to focus on mining no much attention was paid to other local cash crops. But after COVID pandemic and the PM’s Atmanirbhar slogan the state government has started paying attention to the agriculture and horticulture.
The way the state agriculture department and Dr Pradeep Sirmukadam of the Bio Diversity Board are functioning at present by 2022 we should be if not 100 per cent at least 60- 70 per cent self-sufficient in horticulture and other food requirements.
There is a great scope for food processing which is negligible at present in the state. Once this starts we will be needing cold chain and storage facilities in a big way.
As far as paddy is concerned; we have two seasonal crops Rabi and Kharif. In Goa we grow three varieties of paddy Karjat/K3, Jaya and Jyoti. These are all bold varieties. Earlier Goans were consuming the rice cultivated within the state to a large extent. But now due to the availability of fine rice from the neighbouring states, the local bold varieties grown are sold outside especially to Kerala and Karnataka as consumers there are accustomed to consuming bold rice.
Goan farmers have a scope to better their earnings even if they keep the kharif crop for self consumption and convert the rabi season for cereals and horticulture produce. It would also mean that, consumers in the state would get locally grown fruits, vegetables and cereals.
Many more varieties of fruits such as pineapple, mangoes, bananas, kokum and jackfruit could be grown in a big way instead of just rice and coconuts. A variety of local cultivation of food produce would lead to a food processing industry and creation of more jobs at the rural level.
There is a great scope to bring our barren fields under the plough. Instead of a single Rabi paddy crop two-three crops of horticulture and cereals could be grown albeit with availability of water. If food produce is perishable next door then the development of food processing industries is a must. It will lead to the growth of cold chain and cold storage units to preserve the raw materials as well as the processed goods.
The state is planning to promote two crops in two districts of the state under the One District One Product (ODOP) centrally sponsored scheme of the Prime Minister Formalization of Micro Food Processing Enterprises(PM FME). The state has declared jackfruit in the north and the coconut in the south under the ODOP scheme. With this there will be need to set up food processing units so also cold chain and storage capacity
The pattern of the crop in the state should be such that the value addition is within the state itself. This would bring in more food processing industries while also giving a better price to the farmers for their produce.
The government should give the special incentives to the entrepreneurs in the food processing industry by way of easy access to the research and FDA. The incentives are necessary as SMEs are mostly single hand controlled industries.
Today, Goa does have fishing harbour and pisciculture ponds but mostly the processing is done in other states because of the objections raise by the locals in the area. There is need for exclusive zones where all the necessary facilities for fish processing units are located. This again would lead to the value addition within the state.
In short to develop cold chain industry in the state; the governemnt policy should be 1) Change the pattern of the crop; there by bring the land under horticulture and other raw materials required for food processing industries; increasing the income of the farmers 2) Patronize the fisheries for processing within the state. 3) On the water and power front the food processing units in the state need to be given additional support to make it viable and compete.
The state government needs to support entrepreneurs in agriculture, horticulture and pisciculture, sectors in selling and branding their products in the national and international market as most are SMEs with single-handed entities.
The writer is the promoter of Goa Cold Storage Pvt. Ltd, the first cold storage unit in the state located at Dhargal, Pednem