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Corporates enter HP for agri business
Ruchika M. Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 23
Himachal Pradesh is fast emerging as a dream destination for corporates in agri business. From apples to peaches, stone fruits and seasonal vegetables, these corporates are set to revolutionise the procurement of agriculture produce in the hill state.

The entry of corporates is expected to bring boom for thousands of fruit and vegetable growers in the state. Not only will they get a better price for their produce, but will also be saved the hassle of packaging and transporting their produce to distant mandis through the commission agent ‘syndicate’. With Adani Agri Fresh, Reliance, ITC, Mother Dairy, Dev Bhoomi Cold Chain and Container Corporation of India, set to procure large quantities of apple and temperate fruits and vegetables, it will be a win- win situation for farmers.

Last year, Adani Agri Fresh, ITC, Mother Dairy and Concord, had together made their first foray into Himachal by procuring apples. Though these companies are believed to have procured about 5 per cent of the total apple produce last year, the entry of new players like Reliance and Dev Bhoomi will ensure that the procurement by private players reaches an all-time high of 12-15 per cent, say officials in the Horticulture Department, Himachal Pradesh. Besides apple, these companies will also be procuring peaches, plums, cherries, apricots and stone fruits, besides vegetables like cauliflower and peas.

Adani Agri Fresh, which was the harbinger of change for the procurement procedure in apples last year and managed to procure 4,770 metric tonnes of apples, by paying the apple growers an average price of Rs 32 a kg. The growers not only got a better price, but also saved on packaging and transportation costs. The company proposes to procure 24,000 metric tonnes of apples this year.

Said the company’s general manager Abhay Pant, “This year, we plan not only to procure apples for storage in our Controlled Atmosphere (CA) stores, but will also be procuring for the spot sale of apples. Besides, we are looking at procuring vegetables, cherries, plums and stone fruits this year. We have set up three CA stores with a capacity of 6,000 metric tonnes each and have already invested Rs 130 crore in our Himachal operations”.

Official sources in Reliance Retail too informed TNS that this year they were planning to launch their Himachal operations. The company is in advanced stages of creating their supply chain management and will be procuring apples, peaches, plums, cherries, apricots and vegetables.

Dev Bhoomi Cold Chain, the largest chain of cold storage in the country, too is eyeing Himachal for expanding its agri business. Last year, the company had made a foray into the agri business by procuring 11 lakh boxes of apples. “This year, we plan to procure 21,000 metric tonnes of apples. We have created world class CA store of 3000-metric tonne capacity, processing unit for apple pulp and concentrate (for the 25 per cent unmarketable fruit that we procure) and set up auction yards in Shimla, Kinnaur, Mandi, Kullu and Chamba,” said Dr Gyan Thakur, vice-president of the company.

With a favourable weather, apple production is expected to be good this year. R. S. Chauhan, a leading orchardist in Kotkhai, says that these companies pay a better price for the produce (most of them pay by weight of fruit and not according to the number of crates) than the commission agents.

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