Given that Kerala has for a while now gained the name of being a consumerist society, the southern state’s potential to make money out of its agriculture sector may read like an idea that goes against the grain.
However, that is not the case, going by the range of opportunities that the upcoming Emerging Kerala meet throws before entrepreneurs in the primary sector. The September 12-14 international summit at Kochi will announce and display the state government’s prospective ventures aimed at making far better use of its natural resources such as foodgrains, fruits, vegetables and herbs.
With prime minister Manmohan Singh set to inaugurate the event featuring 2,500 delegates from nearly two dozen countries, the Kerala Government is keen to present its set of promising projects in the food and agro-processing sectors.
After all, as a tropical heavy-rain coastal state, Kerala has had an economy that has traditionally thrived on farming and related activities.
Among the facilities that the government is planning to set up is a food park in the downstate Thiruvananthpuram district. It is slated to come up in five acre of land at Vithura, 35 km south of the state capital. It will be set up in the PPP (public-private partnership) mode with the land on lease from the government. The acquisition is pegged at Rs 1.5 crore.
With nuclear families becoming the norm in Kerala, processed food is seeing an exponential growth year after year. The food habits of the people in Kerala are changing, of late; they are becoming increasingly finicky about tastes and nutritional value. The maximum number of industries registered in Thiruvananthapuram district is in this sector.
The Kerala Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (KINFRA) is setting up a food processing park at Adoor in Central Kerala in 30 acre of land. KSIDC is financing units in this park for production of banana chips, cassava chips etc. One plant has been commissioned here and has employed Australian plant and machinery as well as technology for production of these items.
Food processing unit
Then there is a food processing unit that is coming up in the coastal Alappuzha district. This facility, at Pallipuram near Cherthala, will boost the read-to-eat food industry. Especially, Kerala’s very own cassava products, other ready-to-eat food items, seafood products, food delicacies etc. are some of the products at this facility aiming the exports to the Middle-East and Europe.
Food processing parks are planned in Ernakulam district in the private sector. These projects are planned near to the Cochin International Airport.
The project cost of a typical food processing unit will be Rs 800 lakh, while its sales turnover (at optimum capacity utilisation) is pegged at Rs 2,000 lakh. The products proposed are frozen food items which are either ready-to- eat or ready-to-cook. The project can be easily replicated with various products.
Under the Kochi-Palakkad National Investment and Manufacturing Zone (NIMZ) project, it is planned to promote several food and agro processing parks, considering the potential for this sector.
As for coconuts, which is what makes Kerala particularly famous, the government plans to establish three coconut bio-parks — one each in southern, central and northern Kerala. These parks will produce diverse value-added products of coconut. They envisage functioning through special companies formed under farmer-public-private partnership model. An amount of Rs 15 crore is set apart for this in the budget for 2012-13.
Along with this comes the plan for a coconut-based food processing plant. The proposed endeavour (at KSIDC’s Industrial Growth Centre at Kinalur in Kozhikode district) plans to manufacture: i) virgin coconut oil, ii) spray dried coconut milk powder, iii) desiccated coconut powder, iv) coconut vinegar and v) Nata-de-coco (a cellulosic white to creamy yellow substance formed by a bacteria on the surface of sugar-enriched coconut water).
Meat, marine projects
Figuring in the list of new initiatives also is a meat processing plant in Kozhikode district. The Rs 10 crore plant envisages processing of cattle meat with a capacity of 1,000 tonne per annum. Out of this, Rs 3.50 crore are required for plant and machinery. The plant will create employment opportunities for about 90 persons.
The government is also planning to come up with a marine food park in Poonthura, south of Thiruvananthapuram. It has immense scope for setting up export-oriented units, with the coming up of a port in nearby Vizhinjam. What’s more, the traditional fishing harbours of Poonthura, Valiathura, Perumathura and Vizhinjam are all within 10 km.
Then there is a modern rice mill that KSIDC is planning to start in Palakkad district. This is significant, considering that rice mills in Kerala currently meet only 20% of the state’s requirements; the balance is met by PDS and from other states.
The processing capacity envisaged for a medium-capacity modern rice mill is 60 tonne a day (18,000 TPA). The plant operation will be on a 2-shift basis of 8-hour/shift, according to KSIDC. It would require an extent of around 1 acre of dry land, with paddy as the raw material. At 100% installed capacity, the total paddy requirement per annum would be 18,000 tonne.
In addition, the government’s 2012-13 budget proposes setting up two rice bio-parks — one each in Kuttanad and Palakkad regions. The parks in these two rice bowls will produce diverse value-added products of the crop — to every part of the rice plant: grain, straw, bran and husk. They provide the necessary infrastructure for entrepreneurs to initiate rice biomass-based enterprises. The parks also plan to function through special companies formed under the farmer-PPP model. An amount of Rs 10 crore is set apart for this in the budget for the current financial year.
The proposed bio-parks are planned in 25-acre plots at Vechur, DAF, Koozha, Kottayam for Kuttanad and Alathur and DAF at Malampuzha in Palakkad district. The locational advantage of these sites is the large area under rice farming.
Agri trade complex
The government is also planning to set up an agricultural trade complex for popularising and promoting sale of agriculture commodities both within and outside Kerala. Kerafed proposes to set up an agricultural trade complex consisting of exhibition-cum-sales centres for different agricultural commodities, organic enclave to popularise organic products, export-oriented storage points for agricultural commodities, warehousing facilities for agricultural products, convention centre for farm-oriented programmes, etc. For this, the Kerala State Cashew Development Corporation (KSCDC) has a 3.5-acre land at Edapally in Ernakulam district.
In the list of proposed endeavours is a soft drink unit. Kelpalm, a fully-owned government undertaking incorporated in 1985, has been developing soft drinks (Kelpalm). Considering the market trend, Kelpalm has put up a project proposal for expansion and entering a new line of business by investing additional amounts in fixed assets. The proposed cost is Rs 679.39 lakh.
Also on the cards is a mango processing and canning unit. The investment cost for s