Invisible India At Global Food Fair

PARIS: If India prides itself on being one of the largest producers of foods, vegetables and meat, there was nothing to be proud about the Indian pavilion at one of the world's largest food processing shows held in Paris this week.

The Salon Internationale de l'Agroalimentaire (SIAL) or the International Food Show, which is held in rotation each year between Koln and Paris, is touted as the world's largest food exhibition, with over 130 countries participating as exhibitors and buyers from all over the world converging to meet and do business with their suppliers as well as discover novelties, in foods, packaging, technology, etc.

India has been a regular participant at SIAL for decades. However, the country remains quasi-invisible and its participation is rather shabbily organised.

For starters, there are two organisations - both part of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry - that take the lead in setting up the Indian pavilion. One agency, the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), takes the space for most of the Indian participants at the event, for the so-called India Pavillion and the other, the Agriculture Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), then leases a significant part of this space to place its members or Indian food exporters.

The coordination between the agencies seems minimal, leading to a dispersal of Indian participants, making Indian Pavilion look minuscule, when compared with practically all other nations, including Spain, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Brazil and the US, whose pavilions were not only several times bigger but also better organised and decorated, making them visible from a distance, a very important factor in a crowded exhibition area where over 6,000 exhibitors try to catch the eye of the harried buyers.

"This location is perhaps the worst possible. Any further away, we would have been out of the exhibition area. Of course, our committed and regular buyers will find us and come here, but we don't invest so much time and money in these exhibitions to only meet our regular buyers. Instead, we come here for market development and reach out to new clientele. That, unfortunately, is not possible due to the bad visibility and positioning here," complained a tea exporter from Kolkata to IANS.

Another sore point about India's participation in the food show was the near total absence of food, Visitors to other pavilions were spoilt for choice to sample foods of all kinds - ranging from as simple as nuts, olives, pastes or confectionaries to elaborate restaurants which offered a comprehensive gastronomic experience to the buyers.

Government trade bodies from these countries, notably Greece, Italy, Spain and Thailand were keen to invite buyers to sample their food.

In sharp contrast, the Indian pavilion was bereft of any kind of food as even the cashew export promotion council stand did not have any cashews for free sampling.

The only exceptions that saved the day, to an extent, was an Ahmedabad-based company serving hot, steaming idlis, a stand of the food processing industries ministry offering sampling of Indian wines to visitors and the Tea Board offering Indian teas. This of course excludes some small portions of biryani which was made and served mainly to the Indian exhibitors and officials!

Most visitors were bemused by the deserted look of the Indian Pavilion as far as even basic treats were concerned.

"This is a food fair and if here I cannot get to sample or see for myself what a particular product looks or tastes like, I would have a hard time buying it," Sandisegaran, an importer and distributor of Asian food in Paris, told IANS.

Officials of the nodal agencies present at the pavilion blamed lack of adequate budget besides lack of coordination between the various departments for the poor presentation of India.

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Source: IANS