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In a major boost to the food processing sector, Mother Dairy has decided to set up a fruit and vegetable processing plant in Jharkhand.

The wholly-owned subsidiary of National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) got the state government’s clearance for setting up a 25,000 tonne capacity processing plant here on Thursday. The company has zeroed in on a 27-acre plot in Nagri block of Ranchi for the purpose. The total cost of the project is pegged at Rs 76 crore and the plant is expected to be operational within the next financial year.

The Mother Dairy officials on Friday met principal industry secretary Uday Pratap Singh to discuss the finer points of the project. Sources said Mother Dairy will get the land for use by the end of December.

“Jharkhand’s ecology is ideal for horticulture landscaping. The vegetables and fruits grown here have lesser pesticide usage than northern India,” P K Sahoo, business head of Safal (the Mother Dairy wing dealing with food processing) told TOI here. Already having a similar facility in Karnataka, the company wants to set up base in Jharkhand to increase its footprint in eastern India, Sahoo said.

Jharkhand is ranked sixth nationwide in terms of tomato produce and fifth in green peas production.

                      Mother Dairy’s Milk 

The company will use vegetables like tomato and green peas for retail sale and for making ketchups. They will also cater to the juice industry. Besides vegetables, fruits like banana, guava, mango, papaya and litchi will be processed for juice and pulp concentrates. The plant will require one lakh metric tonne of raw fruits and vegetable for achieving its initial annual productivity of 25,000 tonne.

More than one lakh farmers are expected to directly benefit from the project through backward and market linkages as the company wants to retail frozen vegetables like cauliflowers, carrots, green peas, sweet corn and tomatoes in future. The fruit and vegetable processing unit is the first big brand entry in the sector since the state government organized Advantage Jharkhand – a mega investment summit on food processing – in April this year. The Ragubar Das government had managed investment assurances worth Rs 1000 crore in the two-day summit.