Maharashtra houses leading business players, but is yet to induce them into investing in a big way. Taxes, especially on frozen foods, are as high as 34%. To top it all, archaic laws and regulations hinder entry. The state is now pinning its hopes on the Centres decision to amend the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Act for new opportunities to open up.
There are a few success stories, though. Efforts to launch a special horticulture development programme linked to the employment guarantee scheme has helped coverage of a one million hectare area under a variety of fruits. High quality grapes produced in the state are now exported.
Mango, particularly Alphonso grown in Konkan, has an established global equity. The government hopes that efforts in the case of other fruits like pomegranate and banana would pay off soon. And 250 regulated markets offer scope to fruit growers for marketing.
"About 1,500 cashew processing units, mainly in the Konkan region, are being encouraged to export their produce, both within and outside India. About 60 units processing medicinal and aromatic plants are gradually consolidating their positions. Besides, the state has helped onion growers establish storage capacity of 2.5 lakh tonne.
The state has to be aggressive in attracting corporates into the development of cold storages, marketing farm produce," says Dr SK Goyal, state commissioner for agriculture. Its efforts to form a supply chain have not been able to yield result. In Mumbai alone, over 7,000 outlets of Aare milk can be used for selling fresh and processed fruits and vegetables. But the option has not received official consideration, so far.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Agro Industries Development Corporation (MAIDC) continues to produce fertilisers and juices. "In fact, MAIDC should concentrate more on promotion rather than production and can also play a proactive role in post harvest management," agrees a senior officer from the state agriculture department.