Japanese major Kawasaki Rikuso to set up 100 warehouses in Bengal

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Published: January 22, 2019 12:25:07 AM

Kawasaki wants to export vegetables and fruits from West Bengal to Japan and later on to the nations of the European Union. This could create a market for surplus fruits and vegetables that are often sold at distress rates.

Japanese major Kawasaki Rikuso to set up 100 warehouses in West Bengal

Japanese warehousing major Kawasaki Rikuso Transportation Co will set up 100 solar-powered, temperature-controlled warehouses across West Bengal, roping in the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as the chief funding agency and the state government’s agri marketing department’s retail initiative Sufal Bangla as a partner.

Kawasaki wants to export vegetables and fruits from West Bengal to Japan and later on to the nations of the European Union. This could create a market for surplus fruits and vegetables that are often sold at distress rates.

Kawasaki, which occupies 742,700 sqft of warehousing space across five locations in Japan and has annual sales of £100 million, has for the first time stepped out of the country and has chosen West Bengal as a partner state to make it a multinational venture, Keiichi Heguchi, president, Kawasaki Rikuso Transport Co, said.

Sufal Bangla, the West Bengal government’s agri retail chain, which started off with 16 stores and has at present expanded to 100 stores across the state, will provide the Japanese firm land at agri marketing centres on which warehouses would be set up.

State finance, industry and IT minister Amit Mitra while inaugurating the first warehouse at the agri marketing centre in Singur said this is the first-of-its-kind warehouse in India, which would be self charging and temperature controlled. The warehouse can preserve 30 tonne of vegetables per day by consuming 90,000 units of solar electricity per year and saving `6.75 lakh worth of grid power. The warehouse would maintain a temperature between 18 and 30 degree centigrade and this would be a new solution to agriculture, where vegetables can be preserved fresh for at least seven days fetching farmers good prices.

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“Prices of vegetables decrease 4 to 6 times if they are not sold fresh and kept for the future market. This kind of a storage facility can keep vegetables fresh for at least seven days and help farmers realise the right price for it. This warehouses would be exclusively used by Sufal Bangla,” Mitra said.

Heguchi said the first warehouse has come up as a pilot project but the rest 99 would be rolled out as commercial ventures to store vegetables for big retail chains, who deal in agri commodities. While Kawasaki is interested to stick to warehousing, it is eager to facilitate exports of fruits and vegetables from the state, which has a huge possibility.

“Vegetables grown in the northern part of the state are of very good quality and such quality vegetables are consumable in Japan. If the quality can meet Japan’s standard, it could also meet the European Union’s quality,” Heguchi said, adding that Kawasaki would be rolling out three more such warehouses in Bagdogra, Dhupguri and Phansidewa in West Bengal by the end of 2020, and they were keen on concentrating in the state only.

JICA’s chief representative in India Katsua Matsumoto said since the pilot project entailing an investment of `6 crore has entirely been done with JICA grant, it is owned by JICA at present. But it would be shortly transferred to the West Bengal government as a gift from JICA with which it can kick start its commercial venture with vegetables in a big way.

For the rest of the projects, Kawasaki will have to apply for loan and it would normally get more than enough time for pay off. JICA’s cost of funds are generally low and it can help the state’s agri sector in a big way, state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee said.

Rajesh Kumar Sinha, secretary at the department of agriculture marketing, said the Sufal retail chain has already reduced agricultural loss to 10% of the total production from a level 25%-30%. With middlemen coming into play, vegetable producers don’t get a margin of more then 3-4%, whereas at retailers level it is sold at a price 60-70% more than the cost of the production.

Sufal Bangla has been purchasing directly from farmers and helping them realise a better price, Mukherjee said. However, Sinha didn’t make it clear whether Sufal Bangla would look for exporting vegetables from the state.

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