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
Hi taman, Congrats!!!
How the post harvest losses are minimized in developed countries?
Hi Sri, thank you! The post harvest losses are minimized because major consumption in processed food and everything is mechanized.
Thank you very much. Really appreciate your response.