Agro-business Synergy – Focus North Bengal
Department of Industry, Commerce and Enterprises in collaboration with Departments of Agriculture, Agri-marketing,Food Processing & Horticulture, Animal Resource Development, Food & Supplies, Fisheries, Biotechnology, North Bengal Development Department, Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority and Government of West Bengal, in partnership with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Food and Agriculture Centre of Excellence (FACE) organized a two day event, ‘Agrobusiness Synergy – Focus North Bengal’ on May 18-19 at Siliguri. Around 435 entrepreneurs participated from 8 districts of North Bengal – Alipurduar, Coochbehar, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Kalimpong, Malda, Uttar Dinajpur and Dakshin Dinajpur. At the event, there were dedicated Help Desks of the eight districts, Food Processing & Horticulture, Fisheries, Agriculture, Floriculture, Biotechnology, Tea, Meat & Poultry, paddy processing unit, maize, cold chain and financial services for one to one interaction with the concerned department officers. Members of the CII National Task Force was represented by P. Ravichandran, Chairman; Pankaj Mehta, Country Head & Director, Carrier; and Wilson Jebaraj, Senior General Manager, Blue Star. The other national players were from Nestlé, Mother Dairy, ITC, HUL, Keventer Agro Ltd., Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited and Yes Bank. Members of the Task Force also visited the Centre for Perishable Cargo (CPC) located at Bagdogra Airport on the morning of May 18. The CPC was developed by Siliguri Jalpaiguri Development Authority in association with Food Processing Industries & Horticulture Department of West Bengal with financial assistance from Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and Assistance to States for Infrastructure Development for Exports (ASIDE) scheme of Government of India. It was developed in 2005-06 at a project cost of Rs. 614.10 lakh. The total project area of the CPC is about 3 acre. It has the capacity to handle 20 MT of material per day. It was developed to facilitate the marketing of perishable agri-horticulture produce from the North Bengal region to markets in India and abroad, which was expected to be transported using Bagdogra Airport. The CPC has two cold stores, an open pallet storage area, receiving area, documentation room, 2 reefer trucks with 4 MT capacity, electronic display, X-ray machine, etc. However, the CPC has never been utilized. Members of the Task Force felt that the CPC could be revived through Private Partnership. In this regard a meeting with Dr. Guruprasad Mohapatra, IAS, Airports Authority of India is planned soon. P. Ravichandran pointed out during the ‘Agro Business Synergy – Focus North Bengal’ that North Bengal suffers 20-22% post harvest loss due to the lack of connect between farmers and the market. He felt it was important to have packhouses for enhancing the value of farm produce. He mentioned that it was important that the region should have state of the art facilities for grading, sorting, packaging and branding, which would really add value to the agri- and horticulture produce from the region. Linkage with the right market is equally important. A total of 178 investment proposals of the value of Rs.1702 crore were submitted by entrepreneurs from North Bengal at the event. Of these, there were 9 cold chain proposals of the value of approximately Rs.74 crores. The proposed units were for cold storage, multipurpose agri-cold storage, cargo centre, and cold chain logistics.