India took the first steps towards creating a domestic network of irradiation centres for food products as an agreement between Indian agriculture association Hindustan Agro Co-op. Ltd. and United Innovation Corp of Russia was signed here on the issue.
United Innovation Corp is a subsidiary of state-run nuclear corporation Rosatom.
The agreement envisages the setting up of a network of integrated irradiation centres in India managed by an India-Russia joint venture (JV) where Hindustan Agro will have the majority 51 per cent stakeholding.
The JV’s Indian partners told reporters here that estimates place post-harvest losses of food and foodgrains in India to be in the range of 40-50 per cent.
“Food items like fruits, vegetables, meat, cereals, pulses and floriculture worth around 2.5 lakh crore are lost every year in India,” Chairman Hindustan Agro Bharat Dhokane Patil said.
“Around 30 per cent of the country’s fruits and vegetables and around the same percentage of grains are lost due to lack of cold storage facilities or storage constraints,” he said.
With the help of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, the Hindustan Agro farmers cooperative runs an irradiation centre at Rahuri in Maharashtra, which is being upgraded under this agreement.
Now a new facility will be set up nearby by the JV, under this agreement with the Russians.
“India has been late in taking up this technology. Now only an integrated ‘farm to fork’ approach for the entire range of services involving decontamination, preservation and storage can make these irradiation centres commercially viable in India,” Patil said.
CEO United Innovation Denis Cherednichenko described it as a landmark agreement, signalling a move beyond the existing Russo-Indian cooperation on building nuclear power plants like Rosatom’s Kudankulam project in Tamil Nadu, and it had a global component on setting up such centres outside India.
“In its first phase, 7 irradiation centres will be constructed and commissioned in India,” Cherednichenko told reporters.
“The use of this technology will make it possible to reduce the loss of onions in India, which currently go bad because of germination and inadequate storage, by 42,000 tons per year on average, as well as to reduce grain losses from 15 per cent to 3-5 per cent per year,” he added.
The global component of the agreement envisages extending the network of these centres to the UAE, Mauritius and Malaysia, he added.
Patil said the agreement proposes creating around 25 such integrated infrastructure irradiation centres in India. Each plant will have grading, processing, packaging, cold storage and export facility.
The plan is to set up these plants each with 35,000 tonne to 40,000 tonne capacity per annum in a period of around 5 years.
Cherednichenko said Russia has supplied this technology that has been around since the fifties for over 500 plants in 22 countries.
“Radiation treatment is as per dosage recommended by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and the final product is completely safe, without any loss of nutritional value, taste or appearance,” he said.
Depending on the technological solutions used, the average cost of a project on a turnkey basis usually ranges between $4 million to $20 million, the Russian added.
He also said the project would become an example of international cooperation in nuclear technology development to address challenges of sustainable development.
“Russia is a time-tested and reliable friend of India, which has the necessary expertise in the field of irradiation,” Patil said.
Meanwhile, the Indian cabinet on Thursday approved the execution of an MoU with Russia on “Expansion of Bilateral Trade and Economic Cooperation”, a Commerce Ministry statement here said.