India exhibition seeks to gain investment in food industry

India's top chefs on Saturday poured 800 kilograms (1,760 pounds) of rice and lentils into a giant pan on a sprawling New Delhi lawn as the country hosted an exhibition to attract foreign investment to its food processing industry.

The delicacy, known as "khichdi," was slowly steamed as participants from 20 countries took part in the three-day World Food India exhibition.

India, one of the world's biggest producers of rice, milk and pulses, is trying to woo billions of dollars of foreign investment in the food processing sector.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the combination of traditional Indian food and modern technology, processing and packaging could help the world rediscover Indian food ingredients.

"The perfect blend of hygienic, nutritious and tasty processed food, with the added benefits of preventive health care, can be produced economically, here in India," Modi said Friday while inaugurating the exhibition, which has more than 700 global food companies taking part.

Ravinder Singh Chahal, a researcher, said the main reason for Indian food's popularity is its spices. "We don't get them in other countries," he said.

Rahul Kumar, chief of Lactalis India, highlighted the problems most Indian farmers face due to a lack of refrigerated storage for transport to wholesale markets.

Gilbert Le Foll, Marketing and Sales Manager of the French company Femia, said India is more like a continent than a country. "So there is a huge potential of food processing development here in India. A lot of fruits and vegetables are grown here in India," he said.

According to the Indian Brand Equity Foundation and Worldatlas, India is the sixth-largest market for food and groceries in the world, and also the second-largest producer of food and food products.

However, it is currently 12th on the list of top food exporting countries. This is the gap the Indian government is trying to fill with $10 billion in foreign investment it hopes to attract in the next three years.