Being an Indian, food has always been a part of my society, culture, and tradition. That was one of the major drives which motivated me to pursue my career in the field of Food Science and Technology. That being said, the beauty of the theme, “socio-economic contribution of food technology in building a nation” is that it persuades young food scientists to think “big”, in terms of the contribution of food technology to a nation. In this essay, although I have thrown light on the socio-economic development of all nations in the beginning, my thoughts later began to focus on our Mother country.
Food technology plays a major role in providing the consumers with safe, wholesome, nutritious, and high-quality food which is appealing and packed conveniently. These are the major and well-recognized advantages/achievements of food technology. In this essay, I will not be discussing about the advantages of food technology since most of us are aware of what food technology does to the “food”. So, I have emphasized more on the aspects of food technology that contributes in developing a nation.
The socio-economic development of any nation is measured in terms of life expectancy, health, poverty, GDP, literacy, and level of employment. Any nation is bound to serve people of diverse income level, educational qualification, and occupation. In that regard, food technology has played a great role in serving the diverse population of a nation with one of the basic necessities for life, food!
Have you ever wondered how “food technology” can bring a great change to the life expectancy and health of any nation? For instance, food fortification has drastically changes lives of people in various nations. In some developing countries, including MENA countries, and India, fortification of staple foods has reduced the prevailing micronutrient deficiency. This has improved the health of people and thereby their life expectancy. Moreover, in the United States, fortification of folic acid in flour and Vitamin D in milk are carried out to prevent some deficiency diseases that affect the majority of the nation’s population.
As a food scientist/technologist, each of us are working towards a hunger-free world. Correlating hunger to poverty, we are indirectly contributing to the socio-economic development. Processing of agricultural commodities minimizes the post-harvest loss, increases the shelf-life, reduces wastage, and thereby, makes the resources available for consumption. Mass production of food commodities and appropriate processing has made high quality food affordable by people from all income-levels.
To any nation, agriculture is a major source of income and it contributes to the GDP of the nation. In India, the GDP of food processing industries as a share of GDP of agriculture is 11% and the annual average growth rate of GDP of food processing industries is 8.4% in the past five years (NAS 2014). In 2014-15, about 35,757 million dollars were earned through export of food from India to other nations. These figures clearly explain the contribution of technology to our nation’s GDP. Though there is variation in these figures, food technology plays similar role in other developing and developed nations.
There is a great increase in the number of food processing industries in the past decade. In India, the Annual Survey of Industries (2012-13) reports that there were 1,689,157 people employed in registered food processing industries while the number of registered and unregistered food industries were 37,175 and 2,241,195 respectively. The increase in number of food processing industries directly contributes to increase in employment and education opportunities. There is a need for educated employees who can manage food production, quality, safety, logistics, and distribution. Hence, the education opportunities are also increasing tremendously to meet the demands of the industries.
Food scientists in each nation/region/area, have to focus on educating the people in their community and creating awareness among them so that the local resources can be used efficiently. For example, cottage-level industries in villages/rural areas can bring employment opportunities and at the same time, preserve food and make them available for their community. We are blessed with abundant resources; food technologists should analyze the needs of their society and meet their demands with sustainable solutions.
In developing countries, food technologists focus on minimizing post-harvest losses, enhancing food quality and safety by applying various preservation methods and value addition techniques while in developed countries, the focus is on product development, and enhancing sensory quality. The technological advancement in developed countries are extraordinary. But we should be keen on analyzing what can be adapted from them and how best it can be implemented for the benefit and betterment of our society.
The Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Govt. of India has laid its goals and missions and is supporting the development of food processing industries in India. In fact, their attempts to implement mega food parks, modernization of abattoir and cold storage facilities are remarkable initiatives which can reduce the 30-40% loss of food that occurs between farm to fork.
All this being said, has food technology eradicated hunger, malnutrition, food wastage, post-harvest loss? “NO!” While we produce enough food for the population of this world, 804 million people are still hungry; 13.5% of the population in malnourished; 4 out of 10 children in developing/under-developed countries are undernourished. The United Nations has projected the population of the world to be 9 billion which is 34% more than current population. The population, energy resources, and climate change are going to affect the food availability, hunger eradication and sustainability of the population.
In the past, we were hunters, gatherers, agriculturists, and industrialists. Now, we are scientists/technologists! We should commit ourselves to brining global food security! Every nation’s mission and goals should focus on eradicating malnutrition, poverty, hunger, and providing a sustainable world. When I think about this, I remember those famous quotes, “I have promises to keep, and miles to go, before I sleep”. Let’s join hands and work towards a hunger-free, sustainable planet.
Dept. of Food Science and Human Nutrition
University of Maine, USA
Very well written, good thought clarity.
Nice essay..! :)
Thank you. Do you have any questions for me?
Yes sure, Tamanna..!
Can you please throw some light on any recent advancements going in the field of food technology which are contributing directly towards the socio economic growth of our nation?
Thank you for the question. I was quite busy with my research work and couldn't get back to you earlier.
I personally believe that "advancement" need not be a novel technology or a great invention. Every small step that we take, is taking us one step closer to a great advancement. In that regard, I believe advancements in food technology is the increase in the number of food processing industries and the scope of research and education.
Food industries are focusing on processing, and preservation of foods in such as a way that it extends the shelf life of food and ensures maximum consumer benefit. The increase in job opportunities, need for food technologists, scientists, managers, etc., in the food industries directly contributes to the employment and income of people and thus the nation. In addition, value addition of food products increase their quality, and facilitates export of food produce. This, in fact, contributes to the nation's revenue. Fortified products have been really successful in improving the health of the people and thus the quality of their lives.
Research and education in food technology are the other major areas which are contributing to our nation's development. Although there are many novel thermal and non-thermal preservation techniques, I always appreciate the farm level post-harvest machinery and modernized equipment that are available at affordable price. Basically, our country does not need a novel technology that can eradicate all the issues in a short period of time. We need technologies that can solve minor issues and practical difficulties that our farmers face. In that regard, research progress is amazing in India. Moreover, education prospectus are also growing. We have diversified field of study including food science, food technology, food process engineering, and agribusiness management. Youngsters are aware of the need for food scientists. They are inspired and motivated to contribute to our nation.
Also, I personally think every advancement is significant irrespective of it is a recent one or not! "Small drops make a mighty ocean". Advancements in the past, present, and the future are equally important.
Hope I answered your question!
Excellent essay mam
Nice essay Tamanna. Can you elaborate the Food fortification scenario in India, and can we implement the same in Midday meals scheme to schools?
Thanks for the thoughtful question.
Food fortification in India has gained application in flour fortification. Around 9 states in India are fortifying the wheat flour with micronutrients. In addition, milk and oil are the other vehicles of fortification in our country since there is surplus availability and high consumption of the same.
We can implement fortification in Midday meals scheme. Orissa and Andhra Pradesh are states where this is implemented already and has been successful. Rice was used as the medium for fortification to eradicate anemia and malnutrition. Some success stories have been an inspiration to other states. Many other states are now working on implementing such schemes. The challenge here is to identify which micronutrient is lacking, to incorporate it in the appropriate medium and to ensure it is available for utilization in the human body. Also, there is a need to keenly observe the synergistic and antagonistic effects of micronutrients.
Thank you. Lets hope more and more people get benefited with this process in future
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