ITC betting big on food processing

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Howrah, Feb 10 (IANS) Diversified conglomerate ITC Ltd., which on Wednesday unveiled three projects worth Rs.3,000 crore in West Bengal, said it was mulling expansion in the food processing segment hoping to become a major player in shrimp export.

Addressing the unveiling ceremony of the three projects at Panchla in Howrah district, ITC chairman Y.C. Deveshwar also told Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee of his desire to get land near its integrated consumer goods manufacturing facility in Uluberia to scale up its operations.

“Currently only 4 percent of our agricultural produce is processed whereas in countries like Brazil or the Far East, food processing accounts for nearly 75 to 80 percent.

“Food processing can generate huge amount of employment and also help people engaged in agriculture to migrate to manufacturing,” said Deveshwar.

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He said the company was betting big on shrimp export.

“We are exporting shrimp now and we can become a big brand in this field. There are endless opportunities in this segment.

“We have already stated our ambition to achieve Rs.100,000 crore turnover in FMCG business in the coming 15 years, and that cannot be achieved only on the basis of our existing categories, we will have to enter newer categories,” he added.

Hailing the Banerjee government for its pro-industry approach, Deveshwar said the company was desirous of investing more in the state and could set up cold chains and introduce new products if it got land adjacent to its Uluberia plant.

During her address, Banerjee assured all help including availability of land.

“Land is not a problem, there is over one lakh acre of land in our land bank. We will give you more land than what you require,” said Banerjee without clarifying if the land in Uluberia would be made available.

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Later, interacting with mediapersons, Deveshwar said the company was mulling to scale up its production in Uluberia to exploit the advantages of economies of scale.

“In Uluberia, we already have a facility, and if we have additional land we can easily scale it up and introduce more product categories. When we have to fragmentise, that is set up facilities at different locations, then there is no advantage of economies of scale.

“For example we want to set up a frozen food plant or fruit juice line up (in Uluberia). (But) we don’t have enough space,” he said.

About land requirement, Deveshwar said: “Actually we wanted 60 acres of land at one particular location. But we got 40 acres in one and 18 acres in another.

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“The chief minister said there was enough land in land bank but my question was getting land next to where we are (Uluberia). There is a tract of land available there which is lying vacant, so we were hoping we can bid for that land,” he said.

The three new projects, include two integrated consumer goods manufacturing unit in Panchla and Uluberia in Howrah and an IT and knowledge facility in Rajarhat.

The three new projects are part of the Rs.4,500 crore which Deveshwar had earlier announced to invest in the state including its super premium luxury hotel, ITC Royal Bengal.

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