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Food on Salim Group’s plate

Calcutta, Oct. 27: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government has a lot to look forward to in the food-processing sector.

A high point of talks between the government and the Indonesian team comprising representatives of the Salim and PT Chiputra groups during their three-day recce in and around the city was food-processing.

“The discussions centred around four areas — possibility of exporting fruits to Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries, developing infrastructure for food-processing in Bengal and opening cold storage and packaging units,” said an official of the West Bengal State Food Processing and Horticulture Development Corporation.

The Salim Group has a worldwide presence in infrastructure, manufacturing, banking, mining, food products and agro-business. PT Chiputra is a construction company.

“Infrastructure in the food-processing sector in Bengal is in a very bad shape though there is immense possibility of development. We grow large quantities of pineapple, guava, mango, litchi and various other fruits. North Bengal, especially, grows plenty of good quality pineapples. The government would prefer a joint venture because it offers scope to develop our own infrastructure,” the official said. “We would also welcome them if they want to open a unit of their own without the government’s participation,” he added.

The food-processing and horticulture development corporation has a unit at Rajpur in South 24-Parganas to produce jams, jellies and pickles from mango, pineapple and guava. It was set up in the mid-1980s. “Most of the machinery there is dated. We want to increase production, spread the distribution network and export,” an official said.

The government is also faring poorly in packaging products suitable for export. There is only one government cold storage for fruits and vegetables. The facility in Malda is still being developed. “We are inviting private investment in food-processing and packaging from the state and beyond,” said an official.

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