Kolkata: A year behind schedule, German wholesaler Metro Cash and Carry (India) Pvt. Ltd is set to launch its 100,000 sq. ft outlet in Kolkata in a couple of months. But it might have to start without produce, a key offering, because West Bengal’s agricultural marketing board has refused to allow it to trade in fresh fruits and vegetables.
Metro, which has already recruited and trained some 325 people for its Kolkata outlet, made a formal application to the agricultural marketing board two weeks ago for its leave to trade in farm products. But the company has been told it wouldn’t be permitted to do so.
“Though we specialize in fresh food across the world, we might have to start (in Kolkata) without farm products,” said the spokesperson for the company. “We are almost ready. We are tying up the loose ends. This typically takes a few weeks. We hope to launch before the festive season.”
In West Bengal, wholesale trade in farm produce cannot take place outside markets administered by the agricultural marketing board. There is, however, a provision in the Agricultural Produce Marketing Act under which one could start a wholesale market with the licence of the board.
Naren Chatterjee, chairman of the agricultural marketing board, said, “We have received Metro’s application. We have decided not to permit them to trade in farm products, and without our permission they cannot legitimately start business. We have communicated our decision to the company.”
Chatterjee is a leader of the Forward Bloc, a Left Front constituent that is opposed to the entry of private players in wholesale and retail trading of farm products. Another Forward Bloc leader and former legislator, Hafiz Alam Sairani, said, “Our party is opposed to players such as Metro. We will protest and resist its entry in Kolkata.” He even hinted at the possibility of party supporters targeting the Metro store to protest its launch in the city.
For Metro, it’s going to be its fourth outlet after Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai. It will also be Kolkata’s biggest. Metro’s outlet in Kolkata was delayed by a court case over land acquisition. The government acquired a disputed property under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, and gave it to the firm. Those claiming right to the property moved the Calcutta high court opposing the government’s move. The court stayed the construction of the store, which had already started. The injunction, however, was later withdrawn.