India Inc harvest farm business

By agencies   |   Monday, 10 April 2006, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Agri-business seems to be the next big thing for corporate India. Top conglomerates such as Reliance, Bharti and Dabur are planning to enter the fruits, vegetables and dairy segments.

Bharti Enterprises’ Field Fresh Foods, a 50:50 joint venture with the Rothschild Group-controlled ELRo Holdings India Ltd, has started contract farming in fruits and vegetables. The company is working with the farmers of Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Haryana and West Uttar Pradesh.

The venture, which started with an investment of $56.81 million, could ultimately become the back-end hub of Bharti’s retail business. The Punjab government has allotted land to the company for a horticulture venture, sources said. The products to be covered include apples, kinnows, litchis, cherries, tomatoes, baby corn, okra and lettuce.

In the second stage, the company would expand to other parts of the country. It is keen to set up base in the horticulture belt of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh for products such as grapes, mangoes and bananas.

Mukesh Ambani-promoted Reliance Industries is also thinking big in the fruits and vegetables segment. Sources said the company was planning to set up “neighbourhood convenience stores”, selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

The company, which also has major plans for the dairy segment, is planning to set up stores across the country over the next 12 months. Sources said RIL is working out the modalities of these stores and is in the process of creating brand architecture for the purpose.

While Bharti’s horticulture area is primarily aimed at the export segment besides supplementing its future food retail foray, RIL’s venture will be in the direct business-to-consumer domain.

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