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India: Kerala government counts losses as COVID-19 scare hits sale of prison food

Food production units were set up in prisons by 2012, with skilled inmates preparing food for public sale. However, the outbreak of Covid-19 has thrown a spanner in the works.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Covid-19 outbreak has affected all sorts of businesses and the Prisons Department in Kerala is no different. The department’s prestigious initiative ‘Food for Freedom’ has taken a hit owing to the decrease in demand forcing the authorities to scale down production.

The food production units were set up in prisons by 2012, with skilled inmates preparing food for public sale. The hygienic and cost-effective food soon caught the imagination of the public and the endeavour became a runaway hit. The menu card too started swelling as prison inmates began producing a variety of dishes.

However, the outbreak of Covid-19 has thrown a spanner in the works. Prison sources said they have cut down production by about 75 per cent owing to the decrease in sales.

“The sale of food from jails has been abysmally low. We have reduced the production to just 25 per cent. Many of our takeaway counters have been closed because there are not much people out there on the streets to buy food from us,” said an official.

In recent days, most of the products sent to the market have returned as there are no takers. “The products sent to the counters are coming back. It’s an unprecedented scenario. This has increased our financial liability,” said the official.

Meanwhile, the food made at the prisons is burning a hole in the government’s wallet. The official said the food products are being sold at a cheap price when compared to the production cost, thus incurring losses.

“We are perturbed because of the financial liability it is creating. Hope the competent authorities will streamline the project or modify it to make it economically feasible,” the official added.

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