Post Harvest Technology

India is the world's 2nd largest producer of food next to China, and has the potential of being the largest with the potential of being the largest with the food and agricultural sector. There is an opportunity for large investments in food and food processing technologies, skills and infrastructure, especially in areas of canning, dairy packaging, frozen food / refrigeration and thermo processing. Fruits and vegetables, milk and milk products, meat and poultry, packaged / convenience foods, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks and grains are important sub - sectors of the food processing industry. Health food and supplements are other rapidly rising segments of this industry.

India is the 2nd largest vegetable and 3rd largest fruit producer in the world. India is poised to register the highest increase in rice production in the world over the next 10 years. India ranks second only to Japan in inland fish production.

India's food processing sector covers fruit and vegetables, meat and poultry, milk and milk products, alcoholic beverages, fisheries, plantation, grain processing and other consumer product groups like confectionery, chocolates and cocoa products, soya- based products, mineral water, high protein foods etc.

After harvest, foods (e.g. fruits, vegetables, milk, meat, fish,) are liable to accelerated physiological, chemical, and microbial processes that invariably lead to deterioration and loss of wholesomeness. It is then necessary to institute some measure of processing such as reduction in moisture content, denaturation of endogenous enzymes and microorganisms, or packaging in order to curtail perishability. In the absence of such processing, massive post harvest losses can ensue. It is the responsibility of the food scientist or technologist to understand the underlying processes contributing to food deterioration and spoilage and, to device appropriate measures and methods of preservation in order to ensure availability, acceptability, and safety of foods.

Value addition to food products has assumed vital importance in our country due to diversity in socio-economic conditions, industrial growth, urbanization and globalization. It is not merely to satisfy producers and processors by way of higher monitory return but also with better taste and nutrition. Value is added by changing their form, colour and other such methods to increase the shelf life of perishables. Though, with the effort of Ministry of Food Processing Industry the growth of this sector is accelerated, however, there is need to discuss and sort out various related issues amongst people of various categories to increase level of value addition and improve the quality of value added food products for domestic market as well as export.

Post Harvest Technology- Importance and Role

Post harvest loss reduction technology encompasses the usage of optimum harvest factors, reduction of losses in handling, packaging, transportation and storage with modern infrastructure machinery, processing into a wide variety of products, home scale preservation with low cost technology. Use of thermal processing, low temperature, drying, chemical and biological reactions coupled with other preservation techniques are applied to enhance the storability. Containers and packaging materials confer portability as well as extend the shelf-life. Adoption of these techniques could make available a large quantity of food by avoiding losses and provide better quality food and nutrition, more raw materials for processing, thus ensuring better returns to the farmers.

Importance of Post-harvest technology lies in the fact that it has the capability to meet food requirement of growing population by eliminating losses making more nutritive food items from raw commodities by proper processing and fortification.

Post-harvest technology has potential to create rural industries. India, where 80 percent people live in the villages and 70 percent of them depend on agriculture has experienced that the process of industrialization has shifted the food, feed and fibre industries to urban areas. This process has resulted in capital drain from rural to urban areas, decreased employment opportunities in the rural areas balance trade in favour of urban sector and mismatched growth in economy and standard of living between rural and urban people. It is possible to evolve appropriate technologies which can establish agricultural based rural industries. The farmer whose role has been reduced to producer can be transformed into producer cum processor and thus getting more dividends for hard labour, input, kind of risk taken and generating resource for socio-economic advancement keeping pace with the modern times.

Status of food processing Industry

Important sectors in agro processing industries are: fruit and vegetable processing, grain processing, fish processing, milk processing, meat and poultry processing, packaged/ convenience foods, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks etc.

Agricultural processing may be defined as an activity, which is performed to maintain or improve the quality or to change the form or characteristics of the agricultural product. Processing operations are undertaken to add value to agricultural materials after their production. The main purpose of agricultural processing is to minimize the qualitative and quantitative deterioration of the material after harvest.

Primary processing: Purification of raw materials by removing foreign matter, immature grain and then making the raw material eligible for processing by grading in different lots or conversion of raw material into the form suitable for secondary processing.

Secondary processing: Processing of primary processed raw material into product which is suitable for food uses or consumption after cooking, roasting, frying etc.

Tertiary processing: Conversion of secondary processed material into ready to eat form.

Food items are marketed in different forms as raw, primary processed, secondary processed and tertiary processed. The farmers in general prefer to sell their agricultural produce immediately after harvest leaving a part for own consumption and seed purposes. It has estimated that the farmers retain 44 per cent of the total wheat and 48 per cent of the paddy. Mandies and grain traders procure the balance for processing and / or for marketing.

The food processing sector in India has gained importance due to consumers preferences for ready to cook (RTC) and ready to eat (RTE) foods, besides increased demand for snack foods and beverages. As much as 42 per cent of the food industry is in the organized sector and 33 per cent in the small scale, tiny and cottage sectors.

Sector wise food processing

Fruits and vegetable processing

India is the world's second largest producer of fruits and vegetables. It has potential to grow all types of temperate, sub - tropical and tropical fruits and vegetables because of varied agro - climatic diversity. The total production of fruits and vegetable is over 45 million tones and 85 million tonnes respectively. The losses are estimated to the extent of 20 -30 per cent due to lack of proper harvesting, processing and storage facilities, which is valued at Rs. 230 billion. The processed products from fruits and vegetables are beverages, jams, jellies, candies, preserves, canned fruits and vegetables, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, pickles, soup mixes, sauces and ketchups. Products that have growing demand, especially in the Middle East countries include pickles, chutneys, fruit pulps, canned fruits and vegetables, concentrated pulps and juices, dehydrated vegetables and frozen fruits and vegetables.

People generally prefer fresh fruits and vegetables in India due to abundance of seasonal fruits throughout the year available at low price. The production of pickles and chutneys has traditionally been rural level cottage industrial activity. However, in the recent years, processed foods in the form of canned fruits such as pineapple, mango slices and pulps, grapes, apple, peaches etc have increased considerably. The uses of fruits in the form of concentrated juice, dry powder, jam and jelly have also increased. The percentage production of processed fruits and vegetables are fruit juice and fruit pulp - 27, jams and jellies - 10, pickles -12, ready to serve beverages -13, synthetic syrups - 8, squashes - 4, tomato products - 4, canned vegetables- 4 and others -18.

The main fruits that enter the export market are mangoes, grapes, apples, citrus but other fruits identified for export are bananas, sapota, litchis etc. The main destinations for export of fruits being Middle East, U.K., Europe and to some extent Singapore, Malaysia etc. The important vegetables exported are potatoes (28.0%), onions (7.1%), cauliflower and cabbage (4.0 % each), okra (3.0%), peas (3.0%) and others (50.0 %).The exports are limited to Middle East, Europe, U.K and Singapore etc. At rural level solar assisted dehydrators could be promoted for preparation of ethnic food products like raisins, onion flakes and powder, chips, vegetables etc.

Food grain sector

Grains could emerge as a major export earner for India in coming years. India's food grains include rice, jowar, bajra, maize, wheat, gram and pulses.

Rice milling:Conventional rice hullers with a population of 91287 are very popular for milling of rice in rural areas. In conventional rice hullers, bran and husk are produced together and cannot be separated. The by - product is generally burnt. The modern rice mills have separate processing mechanism for dehusking and polishing of the paddy. The husk can be utilized for energy and for industrial products like furfural and the bran for extraction of edible and non edible grades oil. These mills also have better recovery and lower energy consumption compared to conventional hullers.

Wheat milling: Wheat production in the country has increased to more than 73.53 million tonnes. Burr mills (chakkis) are very common for milling of wheat in rural and urban areas. Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Kerala have the largest number of roller flour mills. At present flours made by the roller mills are sold to institutional buyers like defence, hotels etc., and the household purchase is limited to only 1.0 per cent due to absence of open policy for sale of wheat flour through public distribution system. Sale of soy blended and branded wheat flour is likely to increase due to better quality flour and thus scope of organized wheat milling will increase in future.

Pulse milling:Pulses are the major sources for protein for the vegetarians in India. In a total world production of 60 million tonnes of pulses, India, China, Brazil, Turkey and Mexico account for 2 / 3 rd of the output. The pulses are made into dhal by dehusking and dehulling.

Oil extraction: The Technology Mission on oilseeds has helped in increasing the oilseeds production to 24.5 million tonnes. Oil extraction has been a cottage level activity in the country through Kolhus and Oil Ghanis. The introduction of high capacity mechanical expellers and solvent extraction technology has brought in modernization. Small capacity oil expellers have been developed which could be installed in rural areas for promoting agri - business and that might provide more employment. Soybean is not only a good source of oil but also rich in protein. India is now the fifth largest producer of soybean at a global level with production of more than 5.2 million tones. Soymilk analogues, nuggets and soy - blends are being marketed.

Processing of commercial crops

Sugarcane, tea and coffee are major commercial crops grown in India. Tea emerged as major foreign exchange earner. India is the largest producer and exporter of black tea. India exports between 150 -170 million kilograms of tea per annum. Of course, the scope of foreign investment in this sector is good and the multinational tea companies would either be trying for marketing joint ventures with the Indian producers or acquire stakes in Indian tea companies. The production of sugarcane has increased to more than 299 million tones. About 50 per cent sugarcane is estimated to be processed by sugar mills and the balance by small scale Gur and Khandsari units. Although, the efficiency of Gur and Khandsari sector is low compared to sugar mills, but these units provide more employment opportunities to rural work force and therefore, cannot be ignored and requires special attention. Improved sugarcane crushers and furnaces have been developed for producing hygienic gur for domestic and export market.

Packed and convenience food

Modern packed and convenience foods such as bread, biscuit, confectionery, chocolates, ready to eat foods like noodles, cereal flakes, etc have become popular in recent years especially in urban areas although traditional foods have been used in the country in the form of roasted, puffed, sweet meat and baked products. The extruded foods are largely produced in the unorganized sector. The traditional ethnic ready to eat foods prepared in hygienic conditions and marketed with better packaging has plenty of domestic and exports market.

Fishing and Fish Processing

One of the catchy investment sectors is fisheries. The marine fish include prawns, shrimps, tuna, cuttlefish, squids, octopus, red snappers, ribbon fish, mackerel, lobsters, cat fish etc. There is growing canned and processed fishes from India.

Meat and Poultry Processing

India ranks first in world cattle population, 50 per cent of buffalo population and one - sixth of total goat population of the world. There is vast scope to set up modern slaughter facilities and cold store chains in meat and poultry processing sector. Compared with meat, poultry industry has registered significant growth. India ranks fifth in the world and both poultry and egg processing units have come in a very big way in the country. India is exporting egg powder, frozen egg yolk and albumin powder to Europe, Japan and other countries. Poultry exports are mostly to Maldives and Oman. Indian poultry meat products have good markets in Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Presently there are only five egg powder plants in India which is considered insufficient in view of growing export demand for different kind of powder - whole egg, yolk and albumin.

There is a large potential for setting up of modern slaughter facilities and development of cold chains in meat and poultry processing sector. The market has not been tapped for ready to eat and semi processed meat products in the domestic market as well as for exports to neighboring countries especially to the Middle East. Buffalo meat is surplus in the country and has good export potential.

Milk and Milk products

The total milk production is now around 100 million tones and the demand for milk is estimated at even higher level. Manufacture of casein and lactose, largely being imported presently, has good scope.

Alcoholic beverages and soft drinks

Alcoholic beverages are another area where India witnessed substantial foreign investment. The IMFL (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) primarily comprise wine, vodka, gin, whisky, rum and brandy. The Indian beer market is estimated at Rs. 7000 million a year. One of the major advantages for any investor eyeing the Indian liquor market is that India offers enough raw materials like molasses, barley, maize, potatoes, grapes, yeast and hops for the industry.

The aerated soft drinks industry in India comprises over 100 plants across all states. The soft drinks constitute the 3rd largest packaged foods regularly consumed after packed tea and packed biscuits.

Processing can always fetch an additional income to the growers and help in stabilizing the prices with economic returns. The best overall indicator of the economic contribution of food processing to the food system is the value addition. It represents the firm's contribution to an industry's value addition and the value addition is the indicator of the industry's contribution to GDP

Processing units are a boon for the welfare of the orchardists as they can save their crop from wastage and at the same time their produce becomes more valuable, price fetching commodity with suitable post harvest treatment packaging and by processing into various products.