The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Future bright for fish, fruits & vegetables

Calcutta, Oct. 23: International consultant McKinsey has identified fruits, vegetables and fisheries as future opportunity areas of agribusiness in Bengal in its 10-year perspective plan.

In a summary report on investment prospects in agri-based industry in Bengal — submitted to chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings yesterday — the global consultant said there are four areas where fruits and vegetables could flourish.

“They are local market for fresh fruits and vegetables, domestic market for processed foods, inter-state and export markets for fresh fruits and vegetables. If realised, these opportunities could add Rs 3,000 crore to the gross state domestic product (GSDP) and generate Rs 1,500 crore of income for farmers by 2010,” the report said.

McKinsey reckoned that the local fresh market and the domestic processed market are immediate opportunities. “The inter-state and export markets for fresh produce will acquire scale in the medium to long term. Six crops — pineapple, lychee, mango, potato, tomato and green vegetables — present the most significant opportunity,” it said.

Cultivating the products by breaking the convention of season and price variation can increase local consumption of fresh produce, the report added. In order to increase farmers’ income and reduce prices, the state should encourage private enterprise in supply-chain infrastructure and promote organised retailing.

“In the domestic market, processed foods based on tomato, potato, pineapple and lychee have a strong potential. Products include tomato ketchup, jams and jellies, fruit juices and concentrates. In addition, opportunities in coconut, mango and orange should be explored. Success will depend on whether the state is able to bring together all the players in the value chain — extension service providers, primary and secondary producers, marketer and retailer,” the summary report said.

The global consultant felt that the inter-state market would largely be for less perishable crops — a field where Bengal could offer either a cost and quality advantage or steady availability throughout the year.

“Linkages will need to be developed with mandis and wholesale markets across the country. Local entrepreneurs and farmer co-operatives will need to take the lead. Export projects have a long gestation period and will need to be incubated by capable local entrepreneurs.”

McKinsey said the fisheries sector has the potential to add Rs 2,500 crore to the GSDP by 2010. The opportunities in this sector are two-fold — increasing production of shrimps for export markets and value addition to fresh-water fish for the local market.

Pointing out high export prospects for shrimps, the report said it is a sellers’ market globally and exports from Bengal have been “supply-constrained”.

“Bengal has the potential to increase production by four to five times and assume a position of leadership among Asian suppliers. Currently, only 10 to 15 per cent of the area suitable for aquaculture is being tapped,” the report said.

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