The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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German boost for food mart
- Infrastructure, investment signals hailed on visit eve

An 'innovative' government sending out the 'right signals' to investors, a healthy power-supply situation, improving infrastructure, an educated middle-class and a market growing at a fast clip have all added up to win Brand Bengal a thumbs-up from a German B-team.

This comes on the eve of the first-ever trip of a large, dedicated food-processing delegation from Germany to Calcutta.

'The potential here is huge and Bengal, as one of the biggest producers of agro products, would be the natural choice (for investment),' Peter Clasen of Wilhelm G. Clasen, heading the delegation along with Heinrich Birr of the Metro group, told Metro.

The two-day visit (November 9 and 10) by the 15-man team has been organised by OAV 'German Asia-Pacific Business Association, Hamburg, in collaboration with the Indo-German Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber regional director B.G. Roy said: 'In the area of food-processing, Germany is a global leader and has a very strong technology base. This visit is well-timed.'

The spotlight, to start with, will be on German giant Metro Cash & Carry. Clasen agreed that the state's positive response to Metro Group moves has enthused others and Calcutta is being viewed as a potential business destination.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had recently used an industry forum to indicate how welcome Metro Cash & Carry was to enter Calcutta, while Wal-Mart was not (at least not yet).

'They (Metro officials) are coming to Calcutta to hold talks with us. They will buy vegetables and fruits and sell them to hotels,' Bhattacharjee had said.

The Metro Group, which does supply channel management through its wholesale cash & carry business, operates in 30 countries, employing 250,000 people, and its 2004 sales stood at 56.4 billion Euros.

'Because of Metro's engagement, this is seen as a good choice for investment in food-processing. However, information about the state and its attractiveness as an investment location are not sufficiently spread in Germany. OAV will work on changing this and I am sure this delegation will be a good starting point,' hoped Clasen.

The visit is aimed at making companies planning or considering an investment familiar with the conditions, Clasen explained. 'At the same time, we want to give the companies a chance to network and, thus, prepare their future engagements,' he added.

Clasen highlighted the 'comparatively high rate of electricity supply and the good infrastructure' as important pluses for Calcutta.

'The government also provides certain tax incentives and funding for product cost, and last but not the least, the people are known for being friendly, cooperative and educated.'

The leader of the delegation stressed that they were not looking just at food-processing. German firms, after all, have 'long experience and knowhow' in all the other steps involved in bringing food into the market ' transport, warehousing, value adding and distribution.

Bengal, felt Clasen, has become associated with setting the right signs for foreign investors and hoped the visit would strengthen the impression.

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