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The Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) seeks complete control over organisations which do not come under its administrative control but has onus of developing business related to these agencies. Tussle with two other ministries has now reached to the highest level-PMO. An exclusive Report by Mohd Mustaquim
Governance cannot be free from anomalies. Some anomalies are hampering the desired development of food processing sector. The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) is all set to do away with such cases and proactively engaged in resolving a tussle, which recently kicked off between the Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI), Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare and Ministry of Commerce & Industry. These three ministries were in conflict for administrative control over National Centre for Cold-chain Development (NCCD), Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and Marine Products Export Development Authority (MPEDA).
Sources at PMO said, “ Three ministries have apprised their role and functions with regard to Food Processing sector. The PMO is vetting their official stand on the issue and would soon amicably resolve the matter. The decision would taken keeping in view holistic development of the sector as a whole.”
The control over NCCD fuelled the tussle and the MoFPI was strongly pushing forward its case. In a letter ( R&M is in possession of the copy) to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Minister for Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal said, “MoFPI is implementing the scheme of integrated cold chain and value addition infrastructure. Thus, there appears to be an anomaly where one ministry having the onus of developing entire cold chain infrastructure in the country and has no control over an organisation mandated to develop cold chain sector.”
“This, anomaly can be rectified if NCCD is placed under the administrative control of MoFPI,” she wrote to the Prime Minister.
The NCCD, as an autonomous body, was established by the government in 2012 as a think thank for cold chain and agri-logistics and mandated to develop cold chain sector. It is under administrative control of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmer Welfare (DAC&FW).
Badal argued, “DAC&FW only supports creation of cold storages and value addition is not supported by them whereas, MoFPI schemes support integrated cold chain facilities both horticulture and non-horticulture produce.”
Hence, she urged the Prime Minister to “consider placing NCCD under the administrative control of Ministry of Food Processing so that it may play a meaningful role by supporting the Ministry in expanding the Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure and facilitate formulation of policy and strategy in this regard.”
The MoFPI’s tough stand on the issue does not go well in the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare and it squarely rejected the idea of transferring the administrative control of NCCD. An official in the DAC&FW, on the condition of anonymity, told R&M that NCCD is not only mandated to develop cold storage but an entire agri-logistics and value chain, beginning from the farm-gate to the consumers.
“NCCD itself is in the incubation phase and dealing with creating infrastructure for welfare of farmers directly. It is mandated to create infrastructure to empower farmers by enabling them to connect across geographies, help scale up their market access, increase their selling range and thereby multiplying their incomes. If its administrative control gets transferred to MoFPI, its entire mandate of working for the welfare of farmers will be diverted. So, it is necessary to keep it under the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare,” emphasised the official.
It is not only the NCCD which has sparked the controversy. Earlier MoFPI had sought administrative control of APEDA and MPEDA. Both departments are functioning under Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce and Industries since their inception. APEDA was set up by an act of Parliament in 1985 and MPEDA was set up under similar parliamentary act years before in 1972.
On May 2016, in a letter to the Prime Minister, Badal cited several reasons for transferring the administrative control of these two bodies to MoFPI. “Today most of our food producing units are producing not only to cater the domestic market but also for the overseas market. Thus, the domestic production and exports are two inseparable components of food processing sector,” she said.
“ Hence, it is time to consider placing these export promotion bodies under the administrative control of Ministry of Food Processing Industries, so as to give required impetus to this sector with renewed strategy and vigour,” Badal urged.
Taking the argument further, she said, “Sector-specific export promotion drive may be more beneficial than general export promotion endeavours of the Government. As such professionally-akin bodies need to be placed in single basket for obtaining better results of our efforts.”
However, in a Memorandum, the Department of Commerce (DoC) has also defied the idea. According to the department, all matters relating to foreign trade fall under its remit. Thus, all matters related to merchandise exports, including export promotion, irrespective of other ministries or department being responsible for individual commodities and sectors are required to be handled by the DoC.
Export promotion activities cannot be segregated from other export related activities handled by DoC such as framing of policy, bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations, agreements and WTO (World Trade Organisation) matters, the Memorandum said.
Justifying the stand, senior Commerce Department official said, “APEDA and MPEDA also take up overseas market access issues, non-tariff barriers and facilitation of export through coordination with various ministries and agencies.”
The Department of Commerce argued that both agencies work in tandem with its various divisions. For instance, the overseas market-access and issues related to Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT) with individual countries and trade blocs are handled in consultation with various territorial divisions and Trade Policy Division of DoC. “Confining APEDA and MPEDA to M0FPI may deprive these agencies to use the expertise of DoC,” said the official.