In a major boost to the Captain Amarinder Singh’s government’s efforts to woo industry into the state, PepsiCo India has decided to revive its citrus project in Punjab, which was stalled by the Akali government, after a gap of more than a decade.
A PepsiCo delegation, led by Chairman & CEO India Region Shiv Shivakumar and Vice President Global Procurement V.D. Sharma, met Chief Minister Amarinder Singh here on Wednesday to discuss major expansion and investment plans in the state.
The delegation showed interest in collaborating with the state government to revive the horticulture project initiated during Amarinder’s previous tenure, besides exploring the possibility of sourcing citrus fruits for their juices and concentrates from the state.
PepsiCo has also shown interest in investing Rs. 500 crore through a partner to set up a juice concentrate and soft drink production plant in Pathankot, an official spokesperson said after the meeting.
The company, which already has Asia’s largest potato minituber lab in Zahura in Hoshiarpur district and a state-of-the-art bulk storage in the state, has offered technical support to the Congress government to develop Punjab as a premium citrus fruit producing state to help the Chief Minister realize his vision of farm diversification to steer farmers from paddy cultivation to the cash-rich citrus fruits.
In a presentation, Dr. James H. Keithly, a horticulture specialist from USA who was also part of the PepsiCo delegation, unveiled a 5-year plan for the production of high-yielding quality processing varieties of citrus plants at Jalowal nursery in Hoshiarpur district. The nursery was started during Captain’s previous term in the government but had been allowed to fall by the wayside by the erstwhile SAD government.
In his presentation, Dr. Keithly apprised the Chief Minister that 1125 acres of area would be covered under the citrus plantation across the state. He pointed out during 2017, 55 acres would be brought under plantation of Kinnow, Daisy and W Murcott. In 2018, 170 acres would be brought under Carrizo, JattiKhatti and Carrizo rootstock liners. Likewise, 300 acres of area would be brought under Carrizo, JattiKhatti and Volk liners during every year in 2019, 2020 and 2021 to expand the ambit of citrus cultivation in order to tap the land potential in the state and propagate cultivation of various varieties of fruits for sourcing of quality juicing.
The chief minister, while reiterating his government’s commitment to farm diversification to improve the lot of the state’s beleaguered farming community, immediately directed Additional Chief Secretary, Horticulture, Himmat Singh to work out the modalities for the citrus project in collaboration with PepsiCo.
The Chief Minister urged the delegation to explore opportunities for the farmers of South Punjab to be a part of the project while directing the Horticulture department to give liberal subsidies for schemes like drip irrigation. He also asked the department to prepare a comprehensive action plan to adequately enhance the capacities of the two existing Punjab Agro juicing plants, at Abohar and Hoshiarpur, to meet the juicing demands of PepisCo.
Captain Amarinder directed the CEO Punjab Bureau of Investment Promotion to make the proposed new industrial policy conducive to the juicing industry to enable the state’s farmers to reap the maximum benefit by getting a remunerative price for their crop. He also asked the Principal Secretary to take up the matter of ensuring 8hour uninterrupted power supply to the orchards with the Chairman-cum-Managing Director, Punjab State Power Corporation.
Prominent amongst others who attended the meeting were Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, Additional Chief Secretary, Horticulture, Himmat Singh, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Tejveer Singh, Finance Secretary-cum-Chief Executive Officer PBIP Anirudh Tiwari and Deputy CEO PBIP D.K. Tiwari.