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Kusum unit gets back to business

Calcutta, May 23: Kusum Products’ Rishra plant started humming again today after a 20-month shutdown.

At the heart of the resumption is the trade agreement with Nepal earlier this year that caps duty-free imports of the commodity at one-lakh tonnes every year. Illicit consignments of Vanaspati made in the Himalayan kingdom swamped a large swathe of the eastern region, driving local makers out of business.

Kusum, also a pioneer in rice bran oil in the country, will introduce Trust, a non-carcinogenic modified vegetable oil brand, to mark the beginning of its new innings, managing director Pramod Duggar said. The Rs 300-crore company better known as the maker of Kusum vanaspati sold in one-kg packs, also owns Riceol, one of the first rice-bran oil brands to hit the shelves.

The Rishra unit downed its shutters on September 11, 2001, after it failed to stay afloat in the surging tide of imports. Other conditions in the Indo-Nepal trade deal also played a key role in reviving the factory.

These included a rule that cuts the level of indigenous oil permitted in vanaspati production from 25 per cent to 10 per cent. Depressed prices of crude palm oil, the main input, in the international market over the past few weeks should also go in Kusum’s favour.

Duggar, who is also chairman of the Vanaspati Manufacturers Association, said the modified Indo-Nepal trade treaty would help a number of other closed vanaspati units in eastern India to return to business. Twelve of 21 such factories in the region are closed.

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