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ITC to invest Rs 1000 crores to grow its agri business and enhance competitiveness of Indian agriculture
03 Apr 2003

Mumbai

ITC Limited has firmed up plans to invest Rs 1000 crores over the next ten years to grow its agribusiness and enhance the competitiveness of Indian agriculture at the same time. Delivering the keynote address at the CII Agricultural Summit in Mumbai on Thursday, ITC chairman Mr Y.C. Deveshwar said that the company was undertaking this farsighted investment to facilitate India’s evolution as a competitive source of supply of agricultural produce for the attractive global markets of the post-WTO era.

As a farmer Company for nearly a century, ITC has demonstrated the practicality of the unique win-win growth model that it has put in place by synergistically combining the growth of its agricultural businesses with the enhancement of the international competitiveness of the Indian farmer. The network of ITC, as a large and diversified Indian conglomerate, is enabling the Indian farmer prepare to cope with the emerging demands of increasingly intense global competition and the advent of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) framework from January 1, 2005.

Giving details of the specific areas of investment in the farm sector, Mr Deveshwar said the money would be pumped into ITC's ongoing business activities in the areas of farm forestry, integrated watershed development and the ‘e-choupal’ initiative.

ITC’s ‘e-choupal’ initiative is the single largest corporate IT intervention in rural India. ITC has set up Internet kiosks in the farmers’ own villages. At these kiosks even the smallest farmers can readily access the crop-specific vernacular websites created by ITC, and get to know the local weather forecast, the best farm practices, and the prevalent prices and price trends for their crops. ‘e-Choupal’ today reaches out to more than 1.2 million farmers in 11,000 villages through 1900 kiosks.

ITC’s vision is to extend this interactive transaction and fulfillment channel over the next decade to cover 100,000 villages, representing 1/6th of India, thereby reaching out to millions of farmers growing a range of agricultural products. This project is a manifestation of ITC’s commitment to go beyond the market and the immediate business need and add value to the entire agricultural value chain in the Indian economy and enhance the international competitiveness of Indian agriculture.

ITC’s farm forestry programme encourages farmers to create plantations on their hitherto unused private wastelands. ITC gives farmers high-yielding disease-resistant clones, developed through its bio-technology based research project in Andhra Pradesh, to rear plantations. These plantations then become the source of raw materials for its paperboards manufacture. 9000 farmers have so far planted 32 million saplings. The aim is to rear 100 million saplings over 50,000 hectares of wastelands over the next decade, creating employment potential for over 80,000 households.

ITC’s integrated watershed development initiative aims to create 1,0000 large and small water harvesting structures over a decade, thereby increasing water storage capacity by nearly 1.5 billion litres. The objective is to reverse the severe water shortage afflicting 67 per cent of the total cultivated area in the country, contributing 45% of India’s food.

The ITC Chairman pointed out that Central and State Governments have an obligation to create a nurturing policy framework to unlock the full potential of Indian agriculture. Companies like ITC with a long-term agribusiness perspective need to be encouraged to make the requisite investments to strengthen the country’s infrastructure for agriculture and enhance agricultural productivity through sustained extension work.