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No private investors interested to start potato processing plant in West-Bengal

No private investors interested to start potato processing plant in West-Bengal

Tribal villagers bargain for vegetables on January 14, 2009. Kumrokhali, West Bengal, India.

May 2, 2016
The West-Bengal government (India) has recently abandoned its proposed potato processing unit in Hooghly's Sheoraphuli after no private company showed interest in the project.

Note by PotatoPro: This article refers to the set-up of a potato wafer (chips) plant in Sheoraphuli, while we only are aware of a plan to set up a potato flakes plant.
The government had reportedly floated an expression of interest inviting private partners to set up the unit under a public-private partnership in 2013. As none of the established private companies came forward, the project was abandoned at the end of 2015.

Government sources said no private investor showed interest in developing the processing unit for two reasons - lack of a suitable variety of potato and ban on contract farming in the state of West Bengal.

The potato processing units prefer the Chipsona potato to make wafers but in Bengal, priority is given to the table variety potatoes such as Jyoti and Pukhraj.

"The processing unit would have overcome the problem had there been a scope for contract farming.... But in Bengal, we did not want contract farming and that's why no major processing unit would invest here," said a senior government official.

The project had initially drawn attention as the unit could have helped around 8 lakh (800.000) potato farmers of Hooghly.

The Agriculture and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority had released a sum of Rs 8 crore (1.2 million USD) to start the ground work.

As there is little scope for potato processing in the state, farmers face trouble in getting a fair price for their produce whenever there is a glut.

"The state has an annual consumption requirement of 60 lakh tonnes, but we often produce 120 lakh tonnes.... Such huge surplus production cannot be managed by exporting the crop to other states," said an official pointing out the necessity of potato processing units in the district.

A senior agriculture marketing department official said: "The government will try to use the funds in other projects such as setting up packaging units or a cold chain project."
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