Harsimrat Kaur Badal, minister for food processing industries, launched a common food processing incubation centre for shallots (small onions) in Chettikulam, a village in Tamil Nadu’s Perambalur district through video conferencing from New Delhi recently.
She said it was a historic and auspicious occasion for Tamil Nadu and Chettikulam, in particular. She also congratulated the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT), Thanjavur, for its initiatives to help double farmers’ incomes by 2022.
Badal added that the farmers in Perambalur district were producing 70,000 ton of shallots per year in a cultivation area of 8,000 hectare, in spite of the increasing difficulty in cultivation due to the increase in prices of inputs, the unpredictable weather, the outbreak of disease and the inability to fetch adequate prices in the market.
This central processing centre (CPC) for shallots in Perambalur will ensure that no shallots get wasted, farmers’ incomes increase and shallots are available to consumers. This onion processing technology should be taken to all parts of India.
C Anandharamakrishnan, director, IIFPT, said, “The institute has decided to take one crop per year and develop processing technologies and related infrastructure for that crop.”
“In this regard, Mission Banana was implemented last year, and this year, it is Mission Onion. The central food processing centre for shallots in Chettikulam, Perambalur district, is part of Mission Onion in improving the lives of the onion farmers of this area,” he added.
“This centre will help farmers to double their incomes through value addition. It will process shallots and produce five shallot products, viz fresh shallot, peeled shallot, onion powder, onion paste and onion flakes,” stated Anandharamakrishnan.
He also said that IIFPT was working on Mission Coconut, which will be launched on World Coconut Day (September 2) next year.
Perambalur district is the hub for small onion (shallot) cultivation. Farmers reported massive losses due to conventional methods of handling and storage.
Stakeholders from this region expressed their need to provide technological solutions to minimise wastage, particularly during seasons when there is surplus production.
The farmer producers’ union, which will be involved in this initiative, was also launched recently.
IIFPT has developed three machines, viz a small onion stem and root cutter, a small onion peeler and a solar-assisted curing-cum-storage unit for onions.
The centre will make four value-added products, namely onion powder, onion paste, vacuum-packed peeled onion and onion flakes.
The benefits of the value addition created are as follows: reduction of storage losses, ease of handling, shelf life extension, increase in income generation, wider market coverage for local farmers and creation of more jobs.
Even with proper storage and handling, unprocessed small onions last only upto 15 days (and even lesser when stored after peeling).
But with the value addition, onion powder will last for six months, onion paste for five months, vacuum-packed peeled onion for one month (under refrigeration) and onion flakes for six months. Thus, it increases shelf life and farmers get better prices for their produce.