Perishable cargo centre for Amritsar


Chandigarh, July 7

The Punjab Government will set up a perishable cargo centre at Amritsar International Airport to promote export of vegetables and fruits from the state.

The Airports Authority of India has offered 2.5 acres of land at a nominal lease of Re 1 per annum for the setting up of the centre. The centre will be constructed at a cost of Rs 25 crore, out of which Rs 10 crore would be funded by the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY) of the Government of India. This would be the third such facility in India after Mumbai and Cochin.

Approving a proposal of the Punjab Agri-Export Corporation (PAGREXCO), the Government of India has also given a go-ahead for the setting up of five pack house facilities for fruits and vegetables in order to maintain a cold chain till the products reach the airport.

SK Sandhu, MD, PAGREXCO, said there was immense scope for exporting vegetables and fruits for Punjab farmers but the right facilities were required.

He pointed out that the production of vegetables in the state had gone up from 17 lakh metric tonnes in 1997 to almost 28 lakh metric tonnes in 2008. Similarly, the production of fruits in the state had gone up from almost 8 metric tonnes in 1997 to about 11 metric tonnes in 2008. Ferozepur, Hoshiarpur, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Gurdaspur, Sangrur and Faridkot were among the major fruit and vegetable growing districts in the state.

“A few farmers in these areas have taken the initiative and have been growing vegetables for overseas markets. They are using the temporary perishable centre facility at the airport but that is not enough if we are looking at exports on a large scale,” said Sandhu.

While cold stores had already been set up, sites had been identified for the setting up of pack houses at Mushkabad near Samrala, Saholi near Nabha, Kangmai in Hoshiapur, Lalgarh near Samana, Babri in Gurdaspur, Bring Mohanpura near Chola Sahib in Tarn Taran, Sandhwan near Kotkapura, Malerkotla in Sangrur, Shahkot in Jalandhar and Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala.

“The farmers in these areas are already marketing their produce in the neighbouring market yards or supplying to retail chains located close to the growing areas but because of lack of proper transport arrangements they are unable to sell their produce to the distant markets. Pack houses improve the shelf life and conserve the quality of the product and also balances the harvest cycle with the marketing cycle of the product,” said Sandhu.

“The Government of India has approved financial assistance for five pack houses and for the rest financial assistance is being sought. A total of about Rs 8.25 crore would be needed for the setting up of the pack houses. The area needed for the centres would be less than an acre and can be arranged by the farmers,” he added.