Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Sunday, Sep 25, 2005
Standards & Benchmarks
Government - Policy
Agri-Biz & Commodities - Horticulture/Fruits & Vegetables
Soon, your vegetable hawker may be graded
Mumbai , Sept. 24
THE humble fruit or vegetable vendor who comes to your doorstep pushing his hand cart will soon have to register himself with a brand new public authority once Parliament passes a new law on the subject.
Not only that, he will have the privilege of being suitably graded under this law. This was stated by the Union Minister of State for Food Processing Industries, Mr Subodh Kant Sahai.
The Food Safety and Standard Authority, which is proposed to be set up under the new law, will oversee the entire food manufacturing and processing sectors.
"It will be an autonomous body and will cover industrial water, fruits, vegetables, sweets, confectioneries, dairy, poultry, marine food and ready-to-eat sectors," he said. Sellers of all food products would have to register themselves either at the National, State, district or panchayat level based on the ground on which they operate.
"Based on the quality of the product they sell, they will also be graded," Mr Sahai told reporters on Friday night.
Currently, food manufacturing units have to go through eight departments and are controlled by 15 Acts. "There is so much contradiction and overlapping in these laws that there is waste of manpower and infrastructure remains poor. The integrated law aims to end all this," the Minister said. Also, the law aims at a better understanding of the intricacies of the industry. "There is no meaning in sending someone to jail for a small mistake. At the same time, the law also proposes life imprisonment for wilful neglect," Mr Sahai said.
The law envisages tribunals at the district, State and national level. These tribunals will deal with cases based on the new law. Currently, over 70,000 cases relating to the food sector are pending in various courts, including the Supreme Court.
"These cases have been pending for years in the court. Neither the culprits have been punished nor the complainant has got justice. The new law will also aim at speedy disposal of justice," Mr Sahai said. The Centre hoped that the law would be passed in Parliament during the winter session and the new authority could be set up by March.
"The authority will have representatives of farmers and the industry," he said.
`Traceability of food' provision may be dropped
THE Centre is likely to drop the provision of traceability of food right from the farms where it originated in the Integrated Food Law.
The provision stipulated that buyers and sellers should register details of all products and the root of their origin. This basically will help the authorities under the proposed law to trace the origin of the product and find out, if any, the cause of a problem.
"We may not go ahead with the provision (of traceability). We will first try to groom our farmers on this aspect," Mr Sahai said. One reason for the Centre's re-think on this could be the fact that it is opposing certain provision with regard to the agriculture sector in the World Trade Organisation. The other could be that the Parliament Standing Committee on Agriculture has raised the issue with the Food Processing Ministry. Mr Sahai said the committee had discussed the law clause-by-clause and raised questions. "Our Ministry will reply to the questions raised by the panel. But overall, they are in favour of it," he said.
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