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ITC plans Rs 1000 crore agri-business investments
The Hindu Business Line - 04 Apr 2003

ITC Ltd, which has a major presence in agribusiness, plans to invest up to Rs 1,000 crore over the next 10 years in this sector, Mr. Yogesh C Deveshwar, Chairman, told newspersons on Thursday.

The money would be used in ITC’s ongoing business activities in the areas of farm forestry, integrated watershed development and the e-choupal initiative.

Through the e-choupal initiative, ITC has set up Internet kiosks in villages to help farmers access crop-specific vernacular Web sites created by the company and stay informed about the local weather forecast, farm practices and prices and price trends for crop.

The programme reaches out to 1.2 million farmers in 11,000 villages through 1,900 kiosks.

ITC hopes to extent this initiative over the next decade to cover 100,000 villages.

Through its farm forestry programme, ITC encourages farmers to create plantations on their unused private wasteland.

"ITC gives farmers high-yielding disease-resistance clones, developed through its biotechnology-based research project in Andhra Pradesh, to rear plantations. These plantations then become the source of raw materials for its paperboards manufacture. About 9,000 farmers have so far planted 32 million saplings," ITC said in a release.

The company plans to rear 100 million saplings over 50,000 hectares of wasteland over the next decade.

Its integrated watershed development initiative aims to create 10,000 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 storage afflicting 67 per cent of the total cultivated area in the country, contributing 45 per cent of India's food," the release said.

ITC is also looking at entering the business of insurance broking and has submitted a proposal to the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority, Mr. Deveshwar said.

The company is considering an entry into the business of micro-credit as well. It has been in talks with banks and insurance companies for these initiatives.

In its insurance broking initiative, the company is looking at life and crop insurance.