West Bengal should do more with farm products: Amit Mitra

Kolkata, Feb 7 (IANS) Expansion of production technology, setting up of food research centres and joint inter-ministerial initiatives are needed for proper growth and development of the agro-marketing industry in West Bengal, state Finance Minister Amit Mitra said here Thursday.

According to Mitra, the state needs to focus on development of value addition in food sector and substantially increase food processing plants for the growth of the agri-horticultural and food sector.

The minister said though the state was the country's largest rice producer, there was little value addition to rice. "We need value addition of rice to produce products like riceflakes," he said.

Despite being the largest producer of pineapples, the state does not have any processing plants for the fruit.

"We have to expand production in both table variety and processed variety. We need food processing clusters," Mitra said at the inauguration of the Agri-Horti Food Fest 2013 here Thursday.

State Minister of Food Processing and Horticulture Subrata Saha said the government was planning to set up comprehensive horticultural farms that will house micro food-processing centres and initiate vermin-compost projects (manure from worms).

Besides these, the government will flag off a mega food mart soon.

"We will soon begin work on a mega food park slated to come up in Murshidabad. It will be ready and running in no time. We also plan to set up high-end flower processing unit near Mallickbazaar Flower Ghat," Saha said.

Agriculture minister Moloy Ghatak said the government has given kisaan (farmer) credit cards to about 40 lakh farmers, who can now avail loans up to Rs.50,000.

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