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Food & Beverage News

food prices worry PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has warned that prices and availability of basic food items could come under increasing pressure and India could be impacted by the "clouds on global financial market" and a slowdown in the US and other leading economies. " I will be failing in my duty if I do not draw your attention to the impending problem of food security. Global trends in food production and prices and our patterns of consumption are going to put increasing pressure on both availability and prices of basic food items," the Prime Minister said.

Inaugurating the National Development Council meeting in New Delhi, convened to approve the 11th Five-Year Plan (2007-12), Dr Singh said there was a need for enhancing the stocks of food grains and consider buffer stocks for pulses and edible oils.

While exuding confidence of a 10% economic growth during the 11th Plan, the Prime Minister said the sub-prime lending crisis in the US might impact India's growth through reduction in exports and capital inflows. However, he said, "We need not be pessimistic about the country's growth targets. It only implies that we need to redouble our effort to maintain the domestic drivers of growth and ensure that policy facilitates an even faster growth."

Addressing the meeting, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the world was facing challenges of food availability and their rising prices. "Many observers have pointed out that the era of cheap food prices is over. In the changed context, the relevance of an efficient public distribution system cannot be over-emphasised. However, for this PDS has to be efficient to deliver. "We need a PDS for the poor, but unless it is efficient, procures adequate quantities of food grains and delivers to the poor, the PDS could become an albatross around our neck and an opportunity for rent-seekers to enrich themselves," Chidambaram said.

The Finance Minister said the Centre spends Rs 3.65 to transfer Rs1 to the poor. This has emerged in the recent evaluation study on Targeted PDS undertaken by the Programme Evaluation Organisation. In his intervention at the NDC meeting, Chidambaram asked the state governments to help the Centre set right both sides of the PDS, procurement and distribution, stating that a well-functioning PDS was critical for maintaining price stability of food articles. The minister highlighted that, "About 58% of subsidised grains do not reach the targeted group, of which a little over 36% is siphoned off the supply chain."

Pointing out that the first concern is procurement of adequate quantities of wheat and paddy/rice, he said the producing states must cooperate with the Centre and its agencies. He appealed to the wheat and paddy producing states to procure and contribute their fair share of food grains to the Central pool.


Centre to set up 60 agri biz units in M'rashtra

The Central Government, in association with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), is planning to open 60 agri business centres in Maharashtra, including 12 in Nashik, next year. The government has selected Maharashtra and Bihar for the project. New-Deli-based Global Agri System is preparing a detailed project report in this regard. The report will be submitted by February 2008.

Besides the 12 centres in Nashik, 48 other centers will be opened in Nagpur, Pune, Baramati, Jalgaon and Kolhapur, according to officials close to the development. The state government will provide land for the ABCs, Fifty per cent of the project cost will be made available by the Asian Development Bank on lower interest rate of 2.5-3%, while farmers will contribute 10% of the amount. The rest of the cost will be raised by the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) of the related centre.


Supermarket shut down for selling rotten meat

Ras Al Khaimah: Inspectors at the Department of Economic Development shut down a supermarket on Tuesday in the tourist area of Awafi after rotten meat was recovered from the outlet's refrigerator.

The owner of the supermarket used to switch off the refrigerator's power once his work was over, and the emirate's authorities registered some complaints against the supermarket.

Ali Al Bloushi, who heads the Commercial Record and Licensing Section at the Department of Economic Development said, this was the second time inspectors monitored the supermarket.

"The first time the department issued the owner an official warning that was put in his file and he was instructed to take all the necessary measures to protect public health," he said.

He added that the supermarket was instructed to keep the refrigerator on during the day and night and the owner pledged to carry out official instructions.

Al Bloushi explained that the department's inspectors often follow up with official warnings issued by the department to ensure that registered offences are not repeated.

"The inspectors visited the supermarket at night and instructed the owner to open it ... they found the refrigerator was off and all the meat, dairy products and cheese kept inside was already rotten," he said.

The inspectors officially shut down the supermarket.


FICCI submits 10-point package to FP ministry

In order to boost food processing industry in the country, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) has submitted a 10-point package to the Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MFPI).

At a meeting with the senior officials of the MFPI, FICCI stated that the processed food segment would be able to grow at more than 10% per annum driven by consumer demand, organised distribution and policy initiatives taken by the government, provided the obstacles coming in the way are removed and fiscal sops given on an urgent basis.

To achieve the desired growth in food processing sector, FICCI pointed out that infrastructure constraints, wastage of agricultural produce, rationalisation of customs and central excise, uniformity of VAT rate, focus on R&D and lowering of packaging cost should be looked into.

FICCI emphasised in its presentation paper, "It is crucial to bring about a complete integration of the Indian food chain with a view to shifting from a "green" to a "food" revolution."

FICCI unveiled the 10-point strategy to the ministry for its consideration and to be taken up thereafter with the ministry of finance and the empowered group of state finance ministers

One: Establishment of a cold chain and other modernised technology for upgradation of storage, handling and transportation etc should be granted 'infrastructure status' and the tax benefit thereto provided under section 80IA of the Income Tax Act in an integrated manner.

Two: There is a huge amount of food loss during post-harvest due to poor storage and lack of processing facilities. In order to overcome this problem, research should be conducted to reduce both pre and post-harvest losses. R&D ideas should be supported and incubated by the government. The government may consider setting up incubation centres on different aspects of food sector across the country.

Three: Import duty on packaging machinery should be nil; this will bring in efficiency and demand for evolved packaging material requirements.

Four: The aggregate import duty on aseptic packaging machinery is 27.48% which includes CVD of 16%. CVD on such machines should be done away with, as the same are not manufactured in India.

Five: Central excise on packaging equipment and food processing equipment may be reduced from 16% to 8% in order to promote innovation in food processing and packaging equipment.

Six: VAT on processed foods should be reduced and perishable foods should attract VAT of zero per cent whereas non-perishables should attract VAT of 4%. However, if the same is not possible then 4% VAT on processed foods should be made applicable across all states. The underlying idea of VAT was to have a uniform structure of VAT rates on one particular commodity across states and that should be adhered in letter and spirit.

Seven: Packaged drinking water fulfills the basic needs of the consumer outside the house as it is safe drinking water. Excise duty at 16% and VAT at 12.5% on this category is not justified as it is an essential item of consumption and thereby the duty should be drastically curtailed on this item.

Eight: Exemption of customs duty and CVD on plant, machinery and spare parts related to the food processing industry and exemption of excise duty on plant and machinery sourced from the domestic tariff area.

Nine: The abatement given for excise calculation for packaged goods does not adequately consider the level of post-manufacturing cost incurred by FMCG companies and thereby the existing level of abatement of 35% needs a relook and should be suitably increased.

Ten: The duty structure and classification problems in case of sugar confectionery, chocolate confectionery, tea and coffee vending machines, biscuits, mixed-condiments and mixed seasonings etc should also be revisited.


Abu Dhabi clamps down on sub-standard rooftop restaurants

Abu Dhabi: Sub-standard cafes and restaurants on the tops of buildings will disappear from Abu Dhabi soon.

The licences of most of these cafes and restaurants will expire by next month and will not be renewed if they do not meet standards, said a senior official.

"The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) had given them a grace period to implement the standards and most of them were given about one year," said Mohammad Jalal Al Reyaysa, Manager of the Communication and Information Department, ADFCA.

He said no more grace periods or concessions would be granted. The authority has insisted on adherence to the standards to ensure safety and hygiene, he added.

"Some of the temporary ceilings are not safe. Moreover it is against the standards to cook food under a temporary ceiling or in the open air. An open air arrangement is permitted only to serve food."

Al Reyaysa said the auth-ority had tightened up regulations on imports of halal meat. Meat of a particular brand or company which is not on the authorised list will not be allowed to enter the Abu Dhabi market. It is the duty of the importer to follow the updated list of halal meat importers issued by a committee under the General Secretariat of Municipalities in which ADFCA officials are members. Recently the authority restricted a huge amount of a particular meat brand which was not on the list and the importer claimed that he did not know it was excluded. The official made it clear the authority will not accept excuses.

He said the system was in place to ensure the legitimacy of halal meat imported from various sources.

"The UAE embassies in the respective countries recognise the companies or brands of halal meat with the help of the Islamic Association there.

"In addition to the inspections of the Islamic Association, UAE embassy officials also visit the factory, company premises or butcher's shop to ensure the authenticity of the halal meat.

"The committee under the General Secretariat of Municipalities updates the list of brands or companies as per the report from the embassies."


AP hotel industry to take greater strides

Andhra Pradesh is known as the Kohinoor of India. Also known as the "rice bowl" of India, the state is interspersed by two major rivers, Godavari and Krishna. This state has a rich historical past and is considered as one of the ancient society as it finds reference in the Epics and Jataka Tales.

Hotel industry in the state, particularly in Hyderabad is growing at the rate of 10% a year. Andhra Pradesh tourism takes special care to provide star class hospitality in traditional Andhra Style.

This fourth largest state of India is a hot tourist destination. A large number of tourist places, hills and valleys, monuments etc dot the entire state of Andhra Pradesh. The prime tourist destination of the future, Andhra Pradesh enlists some major destinations which are worth visiting. Among which the most favourites are Hyderabad, Tirupati and Vishakapatnam.

People seek entertainment, eating out, leisure travel and other avenues to relax and bond together. Hospitality industry, therefore, plays a vital role in fulfilling the physical and psychological needs of every traveller, be it the domestic or international tourist.

Bright young men and women can look to the hospitality industry as an exciting career avenue. Some colleges have started courses in tourism both at undergraduate and graduate level. Hotel management and culinary arts education helps in equipping students with the required skills, managerial and leadership qualities and nurture talent to graduate as outstanding professionals.

Now the city has grown from 172 sq km to 725 sq km with Greater Hyderabad becoming a reality. The adjoining districts have been urbanised, triggering a real estate boom. The city will attain A-1 status, with its size equalling to that of Goa's.

With this, the opportunity for multinational establishments and hotel industry to grow is tremendous. The industry is likely to take greater strides in near future. Career building in hotel industry, too, is likely to grow faster than in the past.


Panel to issue halal food guidelines

Dubai: An industry panel has been set up to issue guidelines on how halal food is produced and sold, a move that seeks to streamline the estimated $500 billion a year global market.

Delegates attending the recent Global Halal and Islamic Business Forum in Abu Dhabi called for the setting up of "monitoring offices" around the world to work with "recognised Islamic centres to conform to the halal protocols for all foodstuffs to be imported into the GCC region."

Halal literally means what is permissible in Islam and halal food must be free from alcohol, pork and other substances Muslims are prohibited from consuming.

Khalid Al Zamoul, a representative of Kuwait Municipality, said a committee will be formed to enforce guidelines of the Muslim World League, a Makkah-based organisation, regarding the slaughter of animals and food production in accordance with Sharia.

According to a statement issued by the forum organisers yesterday, the responsibilities of the new committee will include the development and implementation of educational programmes for food manufacturers.

Forum

The forum, which ran alongside Halal World Expo this month, was attended by Khalid Sharif Awadi from Dubai Municipality, UAE food safety consultant Amin Mohammad Yousuf and Abdullah Ahmad Abdullah Ali from Bahrain's Ministry of Health.

"The halal industry needs this kind of platform to discuss vital issues affecting businesses throughout the world. The discussions will have a direct impact on the growth and direction of the global halal industry. What happens in the Middle East will have an immediate knock on effect to standards around the world," said Abdul Hamid David Evans, a halal industry expert and managing director of Imarat consulting firm.

Leading food companies have intensified efforts to target Muslim consumers with their "halal" labels, leading to calls for stringent halal standards within the industry.

More than 80 per cent of the GCC's total food imports are estimated to be in the halal category, according to industry sources.

Globally, the halal market is estimated to be $500 billion, with the food segment alone being $150 billion.

However, figures vary on the exact size of the market. The Port of Rotterdam Authority in the Netherlands, which seeks to promote its logistics facilities for the European halal supply chain, said the total annual consumption value of all halal products globally was more than 500 billion euros ($717 billion).

Outside key Muslim markets, Europe's 30 million Muslims are seen as a lucrative segment of the halal market.

Nestle is among the first multinational firms that took a lead in having their products halal certified for Muslim consumers and uses Malaysia as its hub the halal business.


Britannia wins injunction in its favour for Good Day

The City Civil Court in Bangalore has issued an order of injunction in favour of Britannia Industries Limited restraining Unibic from issuing any further advertisements which in any manner disparages the Good Day brand.

Unibic Biscuits India Private Limited had issued advertisements disparaging and discrediting the brand Good Day of Britannia Industries.

Good Day is a registered trademark of Britannia, since 1986. Over the years, the biscuit has grown to become a leader in the cookies segment and enjoys tremendous brand loyalty. The product is available in five variants. Good Day has recently added - Good Day Jumbo to its portfolio which is a unique concept of 'Extra Big' cookie.

Increasingly, companies are now aware of their Intellectual Property rights and are taking several active measures to protect the same, stated the BIL press release.


Dabur is getting ready to cook

Dabur India is looking at expanding its product portfolio by entering into the ready-to-cook (RTC) segment for which it has been on the look-out for suitable acquisition targets. Besides, it is also planning to add new products to the homecare basket, the Real juice portfolio and a complete revamp of the Vatika brand. The company has earmarked Rs 500 crore investment till 2009, and of this Rs 200 crore has already been put in capacity expansion and marketing expenses.

Amit Burman, vice-chairman, Dabur India, said the company was conducting a feasibility study for RTC products but did not comment on whether such a foray would happen through the acquisition route. "We think the RTC portfolio would become Rs 50-60 crore over the next two years," he said.

Already, the RTC segment has well-entrenched players like ITC, Kohinoor and MTR (which was recently acquired by Orkla Foods). Dabur has not been a full-fledged RTC products company since it has only cooking pastes (home-made brand) and juices (Real) in its portfolio. With the acquisition targets hard to come by, the company may have to develop RTC brands on its own.