Some of the agro based industries of Punjab, which can be started at village level, are listed below:
1. Agro Processing Complex:
For processing of food grains, agro processing complexes are very successful in rural areas of Punjab. These complexes can have machines such as mini rice mill, small atta chakki, oil expeller, grinder, dal mill, cotton ginning machine and feed mill etc. The crops such as paddy, basmati, wheat, oil seeds, spices, pulses and cotton etc. can be processed in these complexes.
The cost of the machines installed in these complexes may vary from Rs. 5 lakh to Rs. 20 lakh, depending upon the number of machines installed. The entrepreneur can earn 10000-50000/- per month and provide employment to 2 to 6 persons. These complexes can be a good source of income in rural areas and also quality products will be available locally.
2. Turmeric Processing Plant:
Turmeric is very important and commonly used spice, which has a huge demand in foreign countries. Turmeric is used in different vegetable curries to give taste, flavour and colour. Moreover it is used in medicines, cosmetics and as dye for cotton clothes. In recent years, this crop has attracted attention of the farmers of Punjab. Along with cultivation, the farmers are also processing it at small scale level.
For processing, first of all the turmeric rhizomes are washed so that soil sticking to it can be removed. For this purpose, Punjab Agricultural University has developed a turmeric washing and polishing machine. This machine can wash 2.5-3.0 quintals of turmeric in one hour. Thereafter, washed turmeric is boiled so that the fingers become soft and colour is uniform.
In open vessel, it takes almost one hour for proper boiling. If it is boiled in big pressure cookers, 20 minutes are required. After boiling, turmeric fingers are dried in open sun so that moisture comes below 10 %. It takes about 15 days in good sunshine. Dried turmeric is polished to remove dust and upper brown layer.
Then the above mentioned machine can be used for this purpose. This machine can polish one quintal of dried turmeric in one hour. Polished turmeric fingers are grinded in a grinder (hammer mill). About 15-20 kg powder can be obtained from 100 kg fresh turmeric.
3. Mentha Processing Plant:
The fanners can install mentha processing plant for extraction of oil from mentha crop. First of all, the crop is dried in open sun for 1-2 days so that some moisture is removed. Thereafter mentha leaves are put into air tight tanks and pressurized steam is passed inside these tanks.
The mixture of water vapours and oil are removed from the tank and cooled immediately. The mixture of oil and water is collected in tanks, called separators. Due to low density, oil comes to the upper layer and is removed. This oil is stored in plastic containers. De-oiled mentha leaves are dried and used as fuel.
Along with the processing of their own crop, farmers can process the crops of other farmers also on custom hiring basis and enhance their income. Mentha oil is used in medicines, perfumes and cosmetics etc. Such type of plants can be seen near the mentha producing areas of Punjab.
4. Jaggery Manufacturing:
Inspite of the bigger sugar mills, lot of sugarcane is still used for making jaggery (gur, shakkar etc.). Sugarcane can also be processed at village level. For this, farmers can install cane crushing and other machinery (Kulhadi, velna etc.) and can make gur shakkar from sugarcane juice. About 10-12 kg jaggery can be produced from 100 kg sugarcane.
5. Drying and Packaging of Vegetables:
Some other crops such as fenugreek leaves (methi), coriander (dhania), chili, garlic and many medicinal plants can be dried in sun to make powder. This powder can be packaged in polythene bags and marketed. Solar dryers can also be used for this purpose. Some progressive farmers and societies are doing this business successfully.
6. Dehydration and Freezing Plant for Fruits and Vegetables:
For processing of fruits and vegetables, dehydration and freezing plants can be installed. But these plants require huge investment (Rs. 30 lakhs or more). In this plant, many machines such as blancher, washing machine, dehydrator, and slicer, pre cooler and freezing units are installed.
Technical knowledge is very necessary to operate these machines. It will be better, if such plants are installed at society level, not at farmers’ level. One plant can fulfill the need of many villages. The farmers can bring their produce in such plants, get it processed and take it for marketing.
Once the farmer is convinced about the financial viability of the plant, then he can have such plant at his own level. During processing, some functions can be done manually and some with machines. By following this method, the initial investment can be reduced.
All these ventures can be done separately or along with agriculture. Before starting any enterprise, basic training is required. Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana is an important institute for providing such trainings. The University and Krishi Vigyan Kendras at district headquarters organize such training courses during different times of the year. The full schedule of such training courses can be obtained from university. The University magazines “Changi Kheti” and “Progressive Farming” also publish such schedule from time to time.
By establishing such agro based industries, the problem of unemployment can be reduced up to some extent. Quality produce can be obtained through processing. The educated rural youth should come forward for such type of ventures and grab the opportunity.
Due to limited opportunities for jobs in government sector, unemployment is increasing day by day. The only and easy solution to this problem is that students should be trained in vocational subjects along with the traditional education, so that they can employ themselves in some productive work after completion of their study.
Under the subject of agriculture, the Government has started providing technical knowledge in agro based entrepreneurship development along with providing financial support and other facilities. The Government is providing low interest rate loans and other subsidies for numerous agro based industries. By grabbing such opportunities, the rural youth can start business of his/her choice and unemployment can be eradicated from the society.
Due to lack of good resources for storage and processing in the country, post-harvest losses of the crops are quite high. In grains, this loss is approximately 10%, whereas in fruits and vegetables, loss is as high as 30-40 %. To enhance the farm income, there is a need to reduce the post-harvest losses and to do the processing of agricultural produce.
A lot of emphasis is being given on crops diversification. Farmers are cultivating new crops such as chili, turmeric etc. These crops are to be processed before they reach the consumer. It is the need of the hour, that along with the traditional crops, these crops should be processed at small/ farmers’ level.
This will provide access to the rural areas to the quality products in rural areas as well as generation of employment and enhancement of farmers’ income. Consequently, the migration of the people to the cities will reduce and backward areas will be developed.
The land holdings are reducing day by day; the rural youth can start a number of agro based activities and employ themselves. The activities can be poultry farming, dairy farming, honey production, mushroom cultivation or small scale agro processing. All these works can be successful, if farmer does the marketing himself.