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INTERVIEW

"Promote use of processed products in army, railways"
Monday, 26 March, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Saraf Foods is an ISO 22000:2005 certified company manufacturing freeze dried fruits, vegetables and herbs. It is a global supplier of products since more than two decades and has built a reputation of reliable quality supplier. With its exclusive focus on freeze drying, Saraf Foods has acquired the skills to apply this technology to a number of food products - from fruits, vegetables and herbs to nutraceuticals like aloe vera, bitter gourd, neem, amla, tulsi and turmeric. In an email interaction with Anurag More, Suresh Saraf, managing director, Saraf Foods Ltd, spoke about the food processing industry in India with regard to the current scenario, future outlook and more. Excerpts:

What is the current scenario in the Indian food processing industry?
The Indian food processing industry is seeing a growth. The government, under leadership of our prime minister and food processing minister, is also focussing to promote the food processing industry. In the past, Indian consumers believed that processed food was not good; which is not true. However, now you can see a shift in the consumers’ beliefs; they have started to accept processed food and realised that it is equally good/better and provides convenience. The food processing industry takes a lot of effort to ensure that the consumers get the highest quality product.

What impact does demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax (GST) have on the food processing industry?
Effect in short-term was very bad. Demonetisation resulted in about 50% reduction in domestic sales for a period of three months. Similarly GST resulted in substantial loss of sale for two to three months. However I believe that long-term effect of both are positive for industry; specially for organised sector. I see lot of growth coming to packaged food.

The government had launched different schemes to develop the industry. These included constructing food parks, cold chain schemes and the National Food Processing Mission. What is the status of these?
Government has launched various schemes and for a change these are being implemented very seriously with rigorous follow up at different levels to ensure that the beneficiaries do not misuse scheme as well as the units start functioning in the time period envisaged in the approval. We are one of the 101 approved projects under cold chain scheme and are currently implementing the same. MoFPI under leadership of Badal (minister who is personally leading) is very serious in implementing the scheme properly and is helping us wherever help is required and sought from them. This will go a long way in making India a food manufacturing hub for the world. I had never seen such professional approach as seen currently in implementation of cold chain scheme ever in my 25 years long career in any government scheme.

In the recent Budget, the food processing sector was given more focus. What is the current on-ground scenario?
As mentioned above, ground scenario is very positive. The benefits of various announcements and schemes are reaching the industry and end-user.  

What is the outlook for the food processing industry in India?
I strongly see a very positive outlook for food processing industry in India. Also things like demonetisation and GST will eliminate unscrupulous players from market which will further strengthen food processing industry and make it even more organised.

I can only see a growth and that to accelerating further. I do have one suggestion for government to promote use of various processed products to large users under government sector like armed forces, railways, and PSUs. The shift from fresh to processed in these large scale users will benefit in three ways, one it will accelerate growth of industry and second it will ease price pressure on fresh produce during off season and finally it will give better price to farmer during season.
 
What are the trends and innovations in the Indian food processing industry?
Trends and innovations are more towards convenience and healthier food. I would love to see large organisations shifting to use of processed ingredients from fresh in their cooking.

Tell us about your product portfolio.
Saraf Foods currently specialises in freeze drying and has a diverse portfolio of products including fruits like banana, mango, papaya, strawberry and sapota; vegetables like sweet corn, green peas, onions and potato; herbs/spices like ginger, green peppercorn, coriander and curry leaves; lentils and sprouts. We also offer various other Custom-made products like freeze dried flower, camel milk, different herbal powders. All these products are being supplied as ingredient to industry and are also available to retail customers on our retail website www.purebitez.com. We also offer a large range of freeze dried instant meals.

Brief us about your expansion plans. How much are you investing in the same?
Our expansion project actually includes three projects in one. We are setting up a 3 MT/hour IQF line, a 2 MT/hr line for air drying (dehydration) of vegetables and more capacity on freeze drying. We are setting up completely automated lines and are looking forward to meet demands of our quality-conscious customers in India and across the world. Total project size is Rs 65.00 crore.

After the second round of funding from a consortium of investors, including Danish Investment Fund, IFU, how does the company plan to utilise the same?
The funding is part of our expansion project, details mentioned in above point.
 
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