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Charles lays stone at Food Park
Fatehgarh Sahib, March 27

Prince Charles today laid the foundation stone of the headquarters of the Bhumi Vardaan Foundation at the Food Park Complex, G.T. Road, Sirhind, Fatehgarh Sahib, today.

The Prince of Wales Bhumi Vardaan Foundation to be established at the Food Park Complex is expected to help farmers of Punjab and the neighboring states to work with the foundation and the infrastructure of the complex to undertake sustainable and environment-friendly farming.

Interestingly, the moment the Prince unveiled the plaque launching the Bhumi Vardaan Foundation, he could not help but notice the line that read: "The Prince of Wales's Bhoomi Vardaan Foundation". He was seen pointing the anomaly in the naming of the Foundation to the Punjab Chief Minister.

Prince Charles visited Punjab Agri Ventures Limited (PAVL) Food Park, India's most sophisticated integrated vegetable and fruit processing unit having a facility of 500 MT frozen storage and 5000 MT cold storage. The Punjab Agri-Food Parks Ltd. is being developed as a joint venture between Punjab Agro-Industries Corporation and Dr P K Aggarwal, NRI of Idma Group.

As soon as Prince Charles accompanied by Capt Amrinder Singh, Chief Minister, and his caravan landed at Fatehgarh Sahib, normal life came to standstill and a curfew-like situation prevailed. Traffic was stopped on all the roads leading to Fatehgarh Sahib and all shops on GT Road Sirhind up to Sadhugarh were closed. The railway crossing in Sirhind remained open.

All roads and the area from where the caravan of Prince Charles passed had been renovated and given a new look. Policemen were very courteous. A lower rank officer said they wanted to give the impression that the Punjab police was very polite and well behaved as people from the British media interacted with some of the officers. At exact 12.30 pm, Prince Charles along with others reached Fatehgarh Sahib and went to Samsher Nagar village in a grey Mercedes.

Capt Amarinder Singh accompanied him in the car. Prince Charles, who himself is a farmer for the past 15 years and has converted his own farm totally organic, interacted with the family of Kapoor Singh, whose sons Gurdev Singh and Jharmal Singh are into floriculture on their 1.25-acre land.

They told the Prince that six months' yield of marigolds fetched them around Rs 70,000 and after incurring expenses of Rs 20,000 they earned a profit of Rs 50,000 per season. They sow vegetables for the other six months and after incurring Rs 5000 as expenses they manage to make a profit of Rs 30,000. Thus they earn Rs 80,000 per season from 1.25 acres. They also sell 12 kg milk at the rate of Rs15 per kg daily from their three buffaloes and earn an additional income of Rs 5,000 per month. Prince Charles was highly impressed and heard them with attention.

The visit of Prince Charles got the benefit of getting grants for development of villages from the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister sanctioned a grant of Rs 11 lakh for Samsher Nagar village. Rs.6.05 lakh would be spent on street lighting from Gurdwara Jyoti Sawrup Sahib to the village, Rs3.5 Lakh for the construction of a park near the cremation ground, Rs 60,000 on the brick-paved entry to Kapoor Singh's house, and Rs 40,000 for vermiculture units.

The Chief Minister also sanctioned a grant of Rs 60.89 lakh for Bhatmajra. As much as Rs 41 lakh would be for complete sewerage, Rs10 lakh for boundary wall and steps in stadium, Rs 2 lakh for the boundary wall of school, Rs 2.77 lakh repair and renovation of SC dharmshala, Rs1.20 lakh for the boundary wall of the cremation ground, Rs1.92 lakh for the SC cremation ground and Rs 2 lakh for streetlights in the village.

Charles advocates change in farm practices
Patiala, March 27

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, today while expressing concern over the trend of Punjab farmers committing suicide, advocated a change in the farming practice to make agriculture sustainable.

Addressing a gathering in the local Yadavindra Public School (YPS) stadium after the formal launching of the Bhumi Vardaan Foundation, an NGO set up for the promotion of organic farming in the state, Prince Charles, whose speech was also translated in Punjabi, said, "I am appalled by what I have heard today about the terrifying number of farmers who, having become so ensnared in a vicious spiral of debt and declining incomes, have been driven to take their own lives."

"So, if we do not heed these warnings, I fear we all face a bleak and barred future," he pointed out. He added that the dramatic fall in the water table and declining crop yields would have frightening implications.

Prince Charles, who has been practising organic farming and running a food company "Duchy Originals" in the United Kingdom (UK), said if Punjab was to remain the food basket of India, the farming practice must change as the prevailing practices were unsustainable.

"It would be tragic if the wonderful countryside I have seen today could no longer support the families who have farmed there for generations. It would be disaster if this great state could not continue to feed the people of India. And it would be terrifying if a lack of sustainable livelihood further increased the remorseless drift of people to the unmanageable slums of the big cities. The economic and social repercussions of this are too serious to contemplate," warned Prince Charles.

Expressing faith in the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit and skills of Punjabis, he said that he had great hopes that Punjabis would be able to meet these challenges successfully. He added that Bhumi Vardaan would play a meaningful role in promoting sustainable agriculture in Punjab and ensuring viable way of life on the land not only for today's farmers but for future generations.

Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh said that rate of incidences of cancer and cases of skin diseases were on rise in those pockets of Punjab where the chemical based pesticides and insecticides were being used rampantly to increase the quantum of agriculture produce.

He added that Punjab government had taken up pro active steps to encourage the farmers to shift their mindset from the traditional wheat paddy cultivation cycle to other more eco-friendly crops with a better remunerative potential. The Organic Farming Council of Punjab would establish two demonstration farms at Ropar and Ludhiana.

Mr Avtar Singh Dhindsa, a progressive farmer of this region, who also addressed the gathering, said today the Punjab's agriculture was at the crossroads despite the fact that Punjab's economy revolved around agriculture.

Later, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla Parker Bowles planted saplings in the pots in the stadium.


Punjab Agri Food Invests Rs 300 Cr
Sept 7, 2006

When most of the food-processing players are coming to Punjab to set up shop, a Punjab-based service provider to the food industry, Punjab Agri Food Parks Ltd (PAFPL), has decided to spread its operations in Uttaranchal, Karnataka, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

"The reason behind this expansion is facilitating our customers based in different parts of India," said Ankush Aggarwal, Managing director of PAFPL.

The investments at the new locations will be a replication of the model executed in Punjab. The company implemented a hub-and-spoke model at Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab where a hub was built in 25 acres and spoke centres were smaller.

"The final investment at Fatehgarh Sahib will be about Rs 100 crore and the project will be completed by next year. A total investment of about Rs 300 crore (Rs 75 crore each for four facilities) will be made in the upcoming centres. The company proposes to fund new investments through a mix of internal accural, debt and equity. Venture capital firms are interested in funding the new projects," said Aggarwal.

The investment in Punjab was slightly higher than other set-ups because Punjab had multi-dimensional crop structure and it accommodated the produce from Himachal Pradesh, said Aggarwal.

Future Plans for the Project

  • Punjab Agri Food Parks Ltd has decided to spread its operations in Uttaranchal, Karnataka, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
  • The final investment at Fatehgarh Sahib will be about Rs 100 crore and the project will be completed by next year.
  • The company proposes to fund new investments through a mix of internal accrual, debt and equity. Venture Capital firms are interested in funding the new projects.
  • The company is doing branding and co-branding for the export houses but is not involved in any direct exports.
  • The company has an understanding with the Prince Charles Foundation and trains the farmers for the organic farming.

The company at Fatehgarh Sahib has a state-of-the-art post harvest infrastructure for fresh vegetables and fruit that includes cold chain, refrigerated vans, and a 100,000 square feet pre-fabricated structure based on clean zone 1,000 technology (an international benchmark to process food to save from contamination), the largest in India.

In this model, the company engaged about 2,500 farmers to cultivate 10,000 acres fro vegetables in Punjab and Parts of Uttaranchhal and Himachal. "We provide quality planting material to the farmers. Due to the strong social fabric in Punjab, the farmers prefer to buy inputs from the shops of their own choice," said Aggarwal.

According to aggarwal, "a farmer who earns about Rs 12,000 Rs 15,000 per acre per annum for wheat and paddy, can earn up to Rs 50,000 per annum by growing the fresh vegetables as they are provided with the backward and forward integration under the modular structure."

"With the corporate giants foraying to food retail, the market for service providers is propitious. Our company is already providing back-end support to Reliance, Bharti, Big Bazar, ITC and Heritage Food. The Punjab unit has the capacity to s tore and process 50,000 MT per annum of fruit and vegetables," Added Aggarwal.

The company is doing branding and co-branding for the export houses but is not involved in any direct exports.

The company has an understanding with the Prince Charles Foundation and trains the farmers for the organic farming. "There is an enormous market for organic food in the west and we advice our farmers to switch over to organic farming gradually if they want to earn higher returns," Said Aggarwal.


Package Deal
June 25, 2006

A food company in Punjab ventures into food packaging and community participation

Two year ago when a food company in Punjab conceived an ambitious project for providing extension services and undertaking contract farming, few thought it would succeed. Buy this model was implemented recently and ever since it has been earning accolades for venturing into a larger causes than mere profit making. The cause of empowering women in addition to promoting crop diversification and organic farming.

Punjab Agri Food Parks is now looking for guidance from Prince Charles's Foundation. Prince Charles had visited the project site on his recent visit to Punjab.

The women working on the project, many of whom are widows and almost all are illiterate, have been silently contributing to this success story. But they are oblivious of the fact that the plant is expanding its base to become the region's biggest hub making ready-to-consume food products for multinational companies.

"This is a unique model of diversification and social participation," says Ankush Aggarwal, managing director, Punjab Agri Food Parks. According to him, the company is trying ways to offer ready-to-eat food at just Rs 10 per package. Preparing frozen paranthas and samosas for exports are on top of the company's agenda.

And in their plans, they are taking the local community along.

Ventures often fail because industry ignores participation of the community. "We are following a simple but effective model. Our farming extension teams surveyed the nearby fields for quality of soil and water. Then we interacted with farmers and encouraged them to undertake contract farming. We offer them seeds, monitor growth of the crops and tell them not to use chemicals or pesticides. they are on natural farming now and after three years they can switch to one hundred per cent organic farming," says Aggrawal.

The success of the venture also lies in the fact that the company has encouraged farmers to break the routine wheat and paddy cycle and take to vegetables as well.

The company also made a conscious attempt to employ women, says Baljit Kaur, an agronomist heading a team of about 100 women. the extension education team has also tried to convince farmers of the merit of savings.

"We tied with the State bank of India to provide them loans up to Rs 1 lakh to meet their seasonal requirements to buy seed and equipment without mortgaging their land," says Arun Sharma, another team leader at the company.


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