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ITC e-Choupals to touch more lives
The Asian Age - 11 Apr 2005

Shaukat H. Mohammed

Hyderabad: The Secunderabad-based International Business Division, the international trading arm of ITC Ltd., will be expanding its e-Choupals, the Internet-based rural initiative to improve the supply chain for commodities, for the aquaculture trade in Andhra Pradesh from the current 50, the chief executive of IBD, S. Sivakumar, said.

IBD was also considering setting up more aquaculture laboratories in the State, where it currently has only one such lab, in Kakinada.

"The e-Choupal for aquaculture is important because Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal, the other state where shrimp farming is done on an industrial scale, are major exporters of shrimp. The e-Choupals help shrimp farmers with trends and prices in the major markets in real time," Mr. Sivakumar said.

Mr. Sivakumar said the company had the Rs 35 lakh Aqua Center, the laboratory for testing shrimp seed, to ensure that farmers could test the quality of their shrimp seeds. "We hope to start more such labs in Andhra Pradesh and possibly West Bengal, because this will help buyers from abroad keep a track of the quality of the seeds used, and from which farm the shrimp was exported. Traceability of the product will increase export margins," he said.

Shrimp exports accounted for about Rs 80 crores of IBD’s total revenues of Rs 1,200 crores in 2004-05, he said. "Shrimp export is a high-margin commodity if we do some value-addition like individual quick freezing and cooked shrimp. For other commodities like wheat the margin is about one per cent, in line with international trends," he said.

IBD produces IQF and cooked shrimp at a unit it has leased in Visakhapatnam.

"We expect to increase the quantum of shrimp exports in future," he said. IBD supplies the wheat for its parent company, ITC’s, foods division, and other food companies.

Mr. Sivakumar said IBD was planning to set up e-Choupals – which won the ‘Enterprise Business Transformation Award’ for Asia Pacific, instituted by Infosys Technologies and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2004 – for the horticulture segment, beginning in Maharashtra. International Business Division expects a 15 per cent increase in its revenues in 2005-06.