Focus required by private & government sector for effective R&D in maize value chain: Minister for Industry Policy & Investment Promotion, Govt of Madhya Pradesh

New Delhi: Mr Rajvardhan Singh Dattigaon, Minister for Industry Policy & Investment Promotion, Government of Madhya Pradesh today said that to strengthen the maize value chain in the country, there is need for both government and private sector to work together under the PPP model.

Addressing the 7th India Maize Summit, organised by FICCI, Mr Dattigaon said that the maize value chain has been impacted by multiple challenges like low farm productivity, improper storage, poor harvest, amongst others. “Looking at the increasing demand for maize in poultry consumption, breakfast cereals and industrial demand for starch, we have felt the need to set up small processing units to that effect. Focus is required by both private and government sectors and stakeholders for effective R&D in the maize value chain,” he said.

Elaborating on the importance of ethanol, the Minister said that this is one area where the Govt of India is taking a key interest. “The government has an ambitious target for ethanol and ethanol requires maize among other things. There are huge possibilities, and this is one potential area that needs to be harnessed. I welcome all those interested to come and explore business possibilities,” he said.

The minister further said that FICCI can help in finding new ways and possibilities of helping reach better technology, quality inputs, farm level infrastructure development, and setting up quality processing units.

Mr S K Malhotra, Agriculture Commissioner, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India, said, “Through our national food security mission programme we are putting all our efforts to have productivity-led growth as well as area-led growth. Through our national Food Security Mission, we are promoting new varieties that are less than 10 years old.”

Prof Vijay Paul Sharma, Chairman, Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, Government of India said, “In the last two decades, maize and cotton are the two commodity sectors whose growth story has primarily been driven by technology and private sectors. There has been a significant increase in productivity and because of better profitability, maize farmers have also reallocated space for the grain.”

Prof Sharma noted that area expansion in the future is going to be a major constraint because of the competing usage of land for agricultural and non-agricultural sector. “We will have to primarily focus on improving productivity of maize if we want to increase our production. Maize has a great potential for crop diversification,” he added.

Dr N Saravana Kumar, Secretary, Agriculture Department, Government of Bihar said that Bihar is the only Indian state with considerable availability of marketable maize in all three seasons. “We have a maize corridor developed in five districts of the state,” he added.

Elaborating on the versatility of the grain, Mr Amit Sachdeva, Regional Consultant – South Asia, (Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka), US Grains Council, said that more than 3000 products use corn as one of their raw materials. “More recently, during the pandemic, the ethanol used in sanitizers would’ve come from corn as well. The new value additions- the corn oil in the US, is being used to make biodiesel or jet fuel. There is no dearth of value addition that can be done on corn,” he added.

Mr Ravishankar C, Vice President-Marketing, Bayer CropScience & Chair of Maize Initiative said, “Maize is uniquely positioned among Indian crops to cater to both rising domestic demand and a huge international demand in Asia. Besides being a staple food crop, it is used as animal feed and biofuel and finds use in a wide range of industrial food products. This makes maize an emerging cereal crop of significant importance for India’s national food security.”

To build competitiveness in maize, we need to protect farmers from price volatility, provide them access to the best agri-inputs and promote efficient crop management systems, he added.

Speaking on the potential for value added maize, Mr Chirag Gupta, Co-founder, 4700 BC Popcorn said that in the past decade the out of cinema consumption of popcorn has increased tremendously globally, including India. “While the popcorn industry has been growing in India, we still import 90 per cent of the corn needed for gourmet applications. The main reason is that the quality of corn available in the country is not as high as that being imported,” he said.

Stressing on the need for standardization, Mr Aromal Jkoshi, Head of Raw material purchase- Roquette India Pvt Ltd said that we need a uniform standardisation code of maize quality in the country code across the country. Further, he added that the supply and demand for maize is going to be tighter than what has been predicted for the next three- four years. “The demand is going to be higher than the supply,” he said.

Mr Tarun Gakhar, Associate Director- Head of Procurement Operations, Kelloggs India; Dr Gayathri Swahar, Co-founder & Director Marketing, Ycook India Pvt Ltd; Mr Greg Krissek, CEO, Kansas Corn (Kansas Corn Commission and Kansas Corn Growers Association) also spoke on the potential for value added maize.