Kolkata: West Bengal wants to make a serious business of its vegetables and flowers.
The largest producer of vegetables and ornamental flowers in India is inviting tenders from private companies for three organized farmers’ centres and two special flower zones in the state, in a bid to prevent wastage of fresh produce and set up an organized distribution network.
It will be the first time in the country that the private sector and the government will collaborate in this segment. This comes at a time when large corporations ranging from Bharti Enterprises to Reliance Industries Ltd are setting up systems for procurement of fresh produce for their retail chains.
Currently, only the National Dairy Development Board, which oversees co-operatives, operates horticulture auction markets in Bangalore that were set up in 2003. But these do not involve private players.
As much as 30% of fresh produce is wasted every year in West Bengal. The state is executing the plan on the recommendations of Rabo Bank that had undertaken a study to examine the viability of setting up terminal markets inthe state.
The fruit and vegetable centres will be set up in Dankuni, Barasaat and South 24 Parganas. They will operate on the ‘hub-and-spoke’ model. The collection units will source their produce from a 150-km radius. The spokes would be the various collection centres close to the area of produce. Here, fruit and vegetables will be washed, graded, sorted and packed. They will be then sent to the hub containing facilities like cold storage, warehousing and ripening, which traders can use for domestic sales or exports.
“With the setting up of these markets, we hope that the farmer will not have to venture to faraway markets to sell his produce,” food processing industries and horticulture secretary M.L. Meena said at a meeting to discuss Indo- French collaboration in agro and food processing sector.
Rajesh Srivatsava, managing director, corporate and commercial banking, Rabo Bank India, said this development would lead to an organized supply chain. If the model works, some of the established retail players might be a part of this venture, he said.
At least one Flori Park would be ready within the next three months, Meena said. This would eventually be turned into a full-fledged special economic zone or area with tax credits.
Those who want to set up a green house facility to grow these flowering plants, will get a 25% subsidy during the process of setting it up in addition to more subsidies during cultivation. Land has been identified in north and south Bengal based on productivity and landowners in these areas will be given the option to either be a part of this venture or earn a fixed income for five to10 years.
“The return from floriculture is very high,” says B.K. Banerjee, a scientist at the National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, adding the move will also help exports. West Bengal exports flowers worth about Rs5 crore annually.
Flowers such as chrysanthemum yield Rs2.34 lakh per hectare and Gladiolus fetch Rs70,000 per acre. West Bengal has six climatic zones making it favourable for a number of flowers, including gladiolus, marigold, jasmine and sunflower. Some of the flowers are exported to Europe, the US and countries in the Far East.
West Bengal also has around 145 varieties of medicinal plants, out of which the State Medicinal Medicinal Plant Board has focused on 32 medicinal plants, which are in demand in both domestic and international markets.