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Bharti, Rothschilds in agri-produce joint venture

Bharti Enterprises, known till date for its telecom brand Airtel, on Thursday said it would invest Rs 250 crore into a new fresh fruit and v...

By: ENS Economic Bureau | New Delhi |
September 17, 2004

Bharti Enterprises, known till date for its telecom brand Airtel, on Thursday said it would invest Rs 250 crore into a new fresh fruit and vegetables export business. FieldFresh Foods, a 50:50 joint venture of Bharti Enterprises with US-based financial investors de Rothschilds, targets selling 10 to 20 jumbo loads (400-800 tonnes) of fruits and vegetables every day to malls and superstores in Europe, South East Asia and West Asia, 18 months after launch.

‘‘There is immense potential in the farm sector but corporate investments have been slow and few. We hope to kick-start investments once we launch early next year,’’ said Sunil Bharti Mittal, managing director, Bharti Enterprises.

FieldFresh promises that its fruits and vegetables will confirm to international environment and quality standards, and will assist farmers in obtaining ‘organic’ certification to boost sales.

‘‘Around 70 per cent of India’s agri-produce is already organic, it’s just not certified as such. We will help farmers with this,’’ said Ravi Deol, CEO of FieldFresh.

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FieldFresh will export only fruits and vegetables and has no plans for grains, oils, seeds or other farm commodities. Domestic sales will not begin until at least a few months after launch, he added.

FieldFresh will focus on niche international markets that demand specific fruits and vegetables from India. “For instance grapes from Maharashtra and mangoes from Uttar Pradesh have large untapped markets in the UK,’’ said Rakesh Bharti Mittal, joint MD, Bharti Enterprises.

‘‘Thirty-five to 40 per cent of fresh produce in Indian farms goes waste due to improper packaging, sorting, processing, storage and transportation. Our intervention will improve delivery and quality at this level and during production,’’ said Sunil Mittal.

Lady Lynn Forester Rothschild, a director of FieldFresh Foods said if Indian farmers became more efficient, their farms would be far more profitable.

‘‘Every 60th person in the world is an Indian farmer, but he produces 1.8 tonnes a hectare, while an American farmer produces 8 tonnes. China has 60 per cent of India’s arable land in use, but has 40 per cent more agricultural produce. There are immense opportunities here,’’ she said.

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