They also want the sector to be termed as an “essential service”, to avoid shortages on retail shelves and prevent consumer panic. “Central and state authorities are issuing different advisories and notifications on a daily basis, local administrations are enforcing shutdowns of factories and creating ambiguity at the ground level and leading to unnecessary enforcement,” the companies said in one of the letters to the government.
The letters, addressed to the consumer affairs and food processing ministries, have been sent through the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), All India Foods Processors’ Association and the US India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF). The companies have sought clear guidelines to enforcement officials and a mechanism to balance essential and non-essential items.
“To maintain regular supplies, it is necessary that this sector is not put under any work and movement restrictions. Along with the food and beverage sector, food ingredients companies should also be allowed to operate smoothly,” the Ficci letter said. It said many companies are facing challenges from local administrations who are asking them to shut down operations.
It also warned that these restrictions would have a direct impact on farmers and their produce. The companies said they were restricting entry of visitors to all plants, monitoring hygiene conditions at warehouses and distributors,
undertaking extensive sanitisation in factory premises and cutting done on shifts. The foods market is estimated to be worth about `2.3 lakh crore, or roughly 55% of the country’s FMCG industry. Following the lockdown across the country in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, only essential services are being allowed to operate, bringing the economy to a grinding halt.
The USISPF, whose members include ITC, Deloitte, Adobe Systems, APCO, Cognizant and FedEx said in a letter addressed to consumer affairs secretary Pawan Aggarwal that the food processing industry and nutraceuticals be classified under essential services. “Supply chains for food are highly integrated; disruption to any one part will have a ripple effect and the impact would be felt back to the agriculture sector,” it said.
The letter called for all transport vehicles, refrigerated trucks, and those carrying raw material including that meant for packaging be permitted interstate movement and also within cities.