TODAY -

Scope for processing of fruits and vegetables grown in North Eastern region of India
- Part 1 -

Chingtham Chanbisana *

 Thoubal  Keithel as seen on January 28 2017
Thoubal Keithel as seen on January 28 2017 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam



A variety of indigenous fruits and vegetables are found abundantly in the northeastern region of India due to the rich biodiversity and varied agro climatic conditions. Fruits and vegetables are an important supplement to the human diet as they provide the essential minerals, vitamins and fiber required for maintaining health. It is therefore necessary to make them available for consumption.

Major common vegetables grown are potato, tomato, cauliflower, cabbage, bean, cucumber, peas, garlic, okra, chow chow, French bean, mustards, broccoli, brinjal, Naga chilly etc. while pineapple, orange, mandarin, kiwi, passion fruit, dragon fruit, apple, litchi, carambola, aonla, peach, plum, pear are commonly grown fruit in the northeastern region.

Because of the influence of the recently improved production technologies, yield of fruits and vegetables has been increasing but unlike the agricultural crops, the horticultural crops are highly perishable in nature having short storage life. Fruits and vegetables are subject to numerous physical, chemical and microbial interactions which affect quality, nutrition, storability and marketability.

If they are not properly stored or processed, diseases may be caused. Augmentation of food production is one aspect but its proper processing and utilization is another aspect. In spite of good production in some localized parts of the region, post harvest loss of fruits and vegetables varies from 20 to 40% of the total production.

The post harvest losses occur due to loss of moisture, carbohydrates, vitamins and proteins, wilting, shrivelling, physical damage by pest, disease, quality loss due to physiological disorders, sprouting etc. The loss deprives a large proportion of the population from getting sufficient nutrition primarily in terms of vitamins and minerals as well as economic loss.

In order to cope up the loss, the crops need to be harvested at proper maturity and
a) Store at optimum condition required for the respective crops after proper treatment to keep it in the fresh form so that the shelf life of the crops would be extended and made available in the good form to the consumers for distant market as well as inter state markets so as to save what we produce.

b) Preservation by processing just after harvest to other forms for value addition

Transportation is an important link between the producers and the consumers but transport in the form of fresh food is costly in the hilly north eastern region since the means of transport and communication is at infant stage in the region.

It would be more economical for the farmers or producers to process the fruits and vegetables to other form so as to reduce the bulk of the material with longer storage life as well as fetch a good price in the market by value addition at the same time providing employment to the unemployed youths and increase the income of the farmer.

So, the food processing industry has been recognized as a sunrise industry in the region. Indigenous fermented foods are an intrinsic part of the diet of the population in the region and also the oldest and most economic methods for development of a diversity of aromas, flavours and texture along with the purpose of preservation of food.

Although processing has been practiced since time immemorial, the industry is in its infant stage. Processing of fruit and vegetables in India accounts for only 2.2% of the total production due to inadequate processing facilities and under utilization of installed capacity. This is comparatively very low in comparison to other countries like Brazil (30%), USA (70%), Malaysia (82%).

BENEFITS OF PRESERVATION

Preservation gave many beneficial effects in

1. Extension of shelf life of the perishable produce by converting to non perishable food
2. Value addition of products in terms of nutrition to add variety
3. Maintain/improve quality
4. Enhance form, space and time utility of the produce for
food, feed, fuel and industrial purposes
5. Generate employment for uneducated youth in the region
6. To reduce the bulk for food for easier transport and storage
7. Reduction in malnutrition by ensuring sufficient food to all
8. Reduction in economic loss at grower level during marketing and at consumerís end
9. Availability to areas where the specific crop is not grown and remote areas
10. To assure off season availability of perishable items.
11. Export of fresh and processed horticultural commodities also attract valuable foreign exchange
12. Processed foods are preferred by modern society for fast cooking
13. To store excess foods in safe form for future use

FOOD PROCESSING SECTOR

Northeast people already had been practicing preservation methods of foods locally available since time immemorial, but there are many other potential fruits and vegetables which could be further processed into many other forms to add variety to the food availability in the region as well as increase the income of the farmer at the household level.

Considering the meagre level of processing being done in the region at the present, the food processing industry possesses a lot of scope and opportunity to the growers and other stakeholders in the farming sector to enhance their income through post-harvest processing value addition and export.

It has been reported that for every 1 crore invested in fruits and vegetables processing in the organized sector generates 140 persons per year of employment as compared to just 1050 person day of employment per year in small scale investment (SSI) units.

Food processing can be categorized into three sectors:
1. Primary processing: This involves basic processing of natural produce viz, cleaning, grading, sorting, washing, dehusking etc.

2. Secondary processing: This involves elementary modification of natural products i.e., packaging, waxing, pulping, juice extraction, preparation and preservation of semi-finished products for later use.

3. Tertiary processing: This involves high levels of modifications to considerably alter the natural produce and to make it ready to eat e.g. ketchup, jam etc.


To be continued....

For further details contact:-
College of Horticulture, CAU,† (Imphal), Thenzawl, Mizoram
Public Relation & Media Management Cell,
CAU, Imphal - prmm(AT)cau(DOT)ac(DOT)in


* Chingtham Chanbisana wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on January 07 2021 .



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