JAGATSINGHPUR: Lack of efforts to restart the Horticulture department’s lone canning centre in the district, which is lying closed for the last eight months, has fuelled resentment among farmers and self-help groups.
The facility was opened in 2000 for facilitating farmers and women SHGs and help them preserve food items. Fruits like guava, lemon and orange were preserved and processed at the centre. It was largely used by women SHGs for making sauces, squash, jam, jelly and pickles.
The centre was closed down in May due to acute shortage of manpower. While four staff including a demonstrator assistant, technical assistant, demonstrator attendant and attendant are required to run such facility, it was manned by only a demonstrator assistant.
The person managing the affairs was promoted as technical assistant and posted to Sambalpur earlier this year. Since no staff were posted against the vacancy, it was closed in May.
Every year, the Horticulture department spent Rs 5,000 for purchasing chemicals used in preparation of squash, pickles, jelly, jam and sauces. It made a profit of Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 during peak season.
Besides, training was imparted to SHGs of eight blocks on preservation and processing of food items. Similarly, demonstrators of the department imparted training to unemployed girls belonging to BPL category at the Rural Self Employment Training Institutes (RSETIs). However, lack of demonstrators has hit the training programme at the local RSETIs.
Shantilata Sahoo, a SHG member said the canning centre helped women like her earn a decent income during winter and summer seasons. Its closure has dealt a huge blow to the SHGs’ initiatives.
Assistant Director, Horticulture Mihir Samantray said shortage of staff led to the closure of the canning centre in the district. “I had sought the intervention of Director, Horticulture to depute demonstrators to operate the canning centre but it yielded no result,” he said, adding since the centre is lying defunct, its machineries are likely to be damaged.