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Technology transfer to develop food and agricultural products, conservation, and processing industries

Conservation and the processing of food and agricultural products have an important role to play in transforming predominantly agricultural economies into mixed agroindustrial economies. A well co-ordinated, multi-disciplinary agroindustry would stimulate agricultural production, prevent post-harvest losses during storage, handling, processing, and distribution, and ensure better utilization of the products. The agro-industries would provide additional employment, create new opportunities for investment, and raise income levels, especially in the rural areas, and would increase the export of finished products instead of raw materials, thus helping to achieve a better balance of trade between the developing and advanced countries.

Although agriculture is said to provide livelihood for 70- 90 per cent of the populations in the developing countries, it has reached the saturation point as an employment resource in many of them. There is an urgent need to find alternative employment especially in rural areas. One of the most effective means of achieving this is to establish conservation and processing industries based on appropriate technologies. For this, it is necessary to develop national competence through the training of manpower and the establishment of suitable institutions to help in the selection and transfer of appropriate technologies, as well as for servicing and developing them further. Absence of such competence has been a major constraint to self-reliant development.

Most of the developing countries of Asia and the Far East are located in the tropics. Their conservation and processing problems are almost the same. The exchange of experience among them through a well co-ordinated programme of technical co-operation would prove beneficial to all of them. Such a programme would necessitate the creation of a mechanism to ensure the better utilization of national institutions. The competent institutions in a region should first be identified for purposes of co-ordinating efforts for the selection and transfer of technologies and for the training of manpower to develop the required national competence which will lead to the creation of a network of institutions within the region.

The long-term objective is an effort towards achieving self- sufficiency in food and increasing the self-reliance of the developing countries of Asia and the Far East. Towards this, steps have to be taken to:

(a) develop technical co-operation among the developing countries (TCDC) of Asia;
(b) establish a system of inter-country co-operation that will help to optimize the resources, minimize duplication, and make better use of the institutional infrastructure; and
(c) develop a programme of building manpower resources required for technology transfer, research, development, plant operation, management, marketing, and distribution.

A Technical Consultation to discuss some of these topics was arranged by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations at the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), India, an associated institution of the UN University, 7-15 August 1978. This was an opportunity to bring together scientists and technologists of the countries of the region to consult, discuss, exchange ideas, and decide about their specific requirements in the field of development of agro-industries.

Representatives from the following countries were present: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, and Thailand. Pakistan and Sri Lanka were unable to send representatives, although their Country Status Reports on agro-industries were available for discussion. Representatives of some R-and-D institutions in India, Nigeria, and Mexico were present by invitation. Representatives from UNIDO, UNDP, UNU, and ESCAP also attended. In all, 40 persons participated in the Consultation.

Following the presentation of the Status Reports on food and agricultural-products industries in the participating countries (prepared by special consultants appointed for each country by the FAO), and detailed discussions of them, the meeting divided into several small panels to identify priority needs. The other topics discussed were priority areas of agro-industrial development for each country, national infrastructures for technology transfer, and regional mechanisms for co-operation.

While varying degrees of national competence existed in many countries, the consensus was that these capabilities need to be strengthened further. The transplantation of foreign technologies had helped in the early stages to achieve industrialization at a faster rate, but in the long run this was not found satisfactory in many cases because of the inappropriateness and/or obsolescence of such technologies. Also, there were other difficulties in such transplantings, e.g., irrelevance to the exact national requirements; secrecy and restrictive clauses in technical agreements; inability to effect horizontal transfer in order to build similar industries by other entrepreneurs; limitation of skilled manpower; and even higher costs of production in many cases.

It emerged that there was no alternative to genuine technology transfer for developing indigenously owned industries. This type of transfer could include a package of services consisting of details about the technology, the engineering component, manpower training, quality assurance, and process guarantees. There was a general consensus that! greater recognition should be given to the development of agro-based industries by all the countries in the region. The necessity to identify subsector priorities was stressed so that the limited resources available can be used most effectively. There was found to be an uneven development of different components of the infrastructure which resulted in considerable food losses in terms of waste of resources and spoilage. In many cases where a sound industry had been built up on the basis of transplanted rather than transferred technologies, it was found necessary to develop and improve these technologies further. In several cases, the R-and-D infrastructure had not been built on a foundation of real problem identification and project planning aimed at solving economic and social problems, but had merely extended the technical components operating in advanced countries.

Many of the countries in the region had institutional infrastructures developed to different degrees. However, they need to be strengthened and at least a minimum degree of competence must be developed in this vital area to assess and utilize technologies even if they are imported.

In many cases, the infrastructure was not adequate to cover most of the subsectors. Several countries had, however, developed specialized technological competence in particular subsectors.

There appeared to be an urgent need to survey all the facilities so that they could play an effective role in the overall effort for technology transfer in the region.

The need was recognized for an integrated approach to building agro-industries and developing institutional infrastructure.

The common constraints reported in the countries of the region were inadequate know-how; shortage of the desired quality of raw material for the processing industries; shortage of trained manpower; limited machine-building capability; underdeveloped supporting industries; inadequate institutional infrastructure; shortage of financial resources; limitation of management competence, and need for greater awareness to support R-and-D.

The priority areas for further development were examined, and a tabulated list for ready reference was compiled, for the following subsectors: food-grain conservation and processing; fruit and vegetable products conservation and processing; oil-seed crops processing; starch and sugar industry; spices and essential-oil industry; non-alcoholic stimulant foods: fermented foods; animal-food processing; hides, skins, and animal products; natural fibre industry; machinery and equipment; and training of manpower for technology transfer.

Creation of a regional mechanism was recommended, in the form of a network of institutions with a co-ordinating secretariat and adequate facilities. Subsector mechanisms could be located in institutions having competence in respective areas of specialization. The network should give attention to preparing viable technology and manpower development.

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