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`Food packaging industry must get its act together'

Our Bureau

Chennai , Dec. 12

THE food industry has to "pull its packaging act together" if it hopes to exploit the international markets, according to Mr Bushen Raina, Managing Director, Tinplate Company of India Ltd.

Packaging is at the heart of the marketing strategy in terms of functionality, shelf appeal and convenience. Every market has stringent quality standards for packaging aimed at ensuring health and hygiene for the consumers.

Though India was a major producer of agricultural products, it processes and packages just a fraction of the output. Despite the potential to emerge a major exporter, it is yet to tap the export markets.

For instance, 10 per cent of the world's fruit production is in India — about 32 million tonne out of the 350 million tonne produced globally. But the country processes just 4 per cent of its output as compared to major exporters like Brazil, which processes 70 per cent of its output, Malaysia 83 per cent and the US 65 per cent, he said.

India produces nearly 60 per cent of the world's output of mangoes but processes just 2.3 per cent of its production.

Processing and packaging are key issues and packaging materials manufacturers can look forward to a growing market. An "omnibus packaging" policy to encourage packaging is in the pipeline. The Government is focussing on measures to exploit the opportunities in horticulture, and more than 32 Agri Export Zones have been set up in 16 States over the last two years, Mr Raina said.

Life style changes were also happening at a fast pace. Traditional meals that "grandmothers cooked" were going out of fashion and people were increasingly opting for packed products, he said.

He was addressing the inaugural of the PACKcon 2003, a two-day conference on `packaging for the global food market' organised here on Friday by the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Mr Rajiv Dhar, Director, Indian Institute of Packaging, said that a policy on packaging needs to address the product and export packaging needs. India is yet to make its presence felt in developed countries like the EU, for instance, which is the largest trading entity with a consolidated market and harmonised standards among its member countries.

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