West Bengal CM to allow corporates in agri-retail

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Undeterred by opposition from within his party and allies, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, for betterment of farm-to-retail segment, has invited foreign players for setting up cold-storage chains in the state.

Bhattacharjee, while speaking at the India International Potato Expo 2008 in Kolkata, called private companies and foreign firms to join in to improve the market mechanism, and set up cold storages and cold chains.

“If we want to set up a chain of cold storages and generate employment, we have to allow big corporate houses to come to the agri-retail sector,” Bhattacharjee asserted.

The statement comes close on the heels of his address to the annual general meeting (AGM) of Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), where he had said: “If the state needs a market mechanism, it must allow corporate houses in retail, though slowly and cautiously. We want private participation.”

Welcoming the move, industry sources told Indiaretailing “this is a positive step forward by the government, which earlier had strongly opposed foreigners’ participation in agriculture-retail sector.”

“The West Bengal government has always favoured private participation in the food processing sector, and this statement by the chief minister is a positive sign,” a Reliance Retail spokesperson told Indiaretailing.

However, apart from allies Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and Forward Bloc, the CPI(M), backed by Coordination Committee of the State Government Employees, has openly opposed this move, saying that it was against big business in ‘retail’ – without narrowing the term to mean only ‘farm retail’.

“Big multinationals or even big domestic firms like Reliance are entering the retail market. If this happens, farmers will be ruined. At this moment, the glittering shopping malls in our state are indicating the truth,” said Ananta Bandhopadhyay, the Coordination Committee’s newly elected secretary.

– Sri Krishna

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