Calcutta, Oct. 22: Perceived a laggard in most fields, Bengal looks set to become an Asian powerhouse in agribusiness by 2010. At least, so says a report by global consultant McKinsey.
Unfurling Bengal’s 2010 Agribusiness Vision in a summary report — a copy of which is with The Telegraph — Mckinsey said Bengal is set to assume a leader’s role in a multitude of crop areas in India as well as Asia.
Rich in natural resources, and enjoying a stable government, the state has achieved a strong growth in agriculture, the report says. “Bengal has achieved self sufficiency in critical food crops and assumed leadership across a wide range of agricultural produce. Its comprehensive and sustained land reforms programme lie at the heart of this progress.”
McKinsey reckons the “vision”, if implemented well, could create 10 lakh jobs and attract investments worth Rs 18,000 crore, apart from enhancing farmers’ incomes and bolstering growth in Bengal’s rural economy.
Apart from the agro-based industry, the report also points out what the government should do to woo investors in Information Technology.
McKinsey, which worked for 10 months to ready the report, made a presentation before chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee at Writers’ Buildings this afternoon.
Asked about the prospects of investments in the agro-industry and the IT sector, Bhattacharjee said: “We are hopeful and have already received responses from seven to eight companies.”
McKinsey is expected to submit its final report to the government by this week. Official sources said the government has accepted the McKinsey recommendations in principle. However, it will have to be formally ratified by the state Cabinet.
Industry minister Nirupam Sen said while drawing up the report, the global consultant had talked with potential investors — in the country as well as abroad — to gauge their attitude towards investments in the agro and infotech sectors in the state. Some of the companies that have shown interest in participating in these two areas include Pepsi, Dabur, Wipro, Tata Consultancy, Cognizant Technology and Samsung.
“The response received (from the investors) has been very positive. Now, we will have to take initiatives to meet the demands of the willing investors and, in the process, go through some structural adjustments,” said Sen.
He, however, added that McKinsey’s report on the prospects of agribusiness had nothing to do with the state’s agriculture policy. “There is no need to change any policy of the government while implementing it.”
McKinsey has suggested close co-ordination among officials and ministers of the departments associated with agribusiness. “In case of IT, they (McKinsey) have emphasised that the chief minister should be directly involved and review the situation regularly,” Sen said.
Officials said the chief minister’s direct initiative had led to the rising interest of infotech giants like Wipro and industrialists like Ratan Tata in Bengal’s IT sector. McKinsey feels Bhattacharjee’s direct involvement will show the government’s seriousness on the issue. “In agribusiness, Bengal is rich in raw material and resources. But, in the IT sector, there is severe competition across the country and the chief minister’s direct involvement is a necessity,” an official said.
The transition from agriculture to agribusiness is central to the “vision”. McKinsey has suggested five factors that will underpin the triumph of this transition.
n Focus on select areas: Need to focus technical and administrative resources in select areas — horticulture, fisheries, rice, poultry and dairy. Within each focus area, aspirations and targets for individual crops should be set.
n Market-oriented approach: So far, the state has adopted a production-driven approach and made commendable improvements in yield and productivity. The next natural progression is a market-driven approach. Establishing domestic and international market linkages will ensure steady evacuation of produce, avoid gluts and reduce the need for subsidies.
n Crop diversification: Need to implement a crop diversification plan in line with the choice of focus areas. Should adopt a masterplan that defines geographic agri centres, which specialise in particular crops and food sectors. This plan should take into account the requirements of food security and allow farmers to choose from a range of viable options.
n Formation of integrated value chains: The private sector will play a lead role in providing farm inputs and extension services, primary and secondary processing, distribution and logistics and retailing.