Northeast's first agri packaging facility to come up in Jagiroad by 2025

Pankhi Sarma

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The upcoming facility is expected to support around 5,000 to 10,000 farmers from the Northeast Indian region

Guwahati: NorthEast Farms Sale Promotions, a pioneer in processing and packaging services to farmers in the region, is planning to set up a processing unit along with a packaging facility, essentially a common facility center for packaging in Jagiroad, with an investment of around Rs 2 crore, Business North East has learned.

This first-of-its-kind project in North East India, a project that's been in the works for some time, will be tentatively commissioned by next year. "We are planning to handle a significant volume within the first year, aiming to package a specific quantity of products,"  founder Bhanu Pratap Singh said in an interview with Business North East. "This initiative is expected to support around 5,000 to 10,000 farmers from the region,"  he noted.

According to Singh, the processing unit will serve as a "comprehensive solution,"  ensuring that farmers' products meet the standards for the national market. "We will cover a wide range of food products, including spices, rice, processed pickles, candies, and more, except for the actual production of the goods,"  he added.

NEFSP currently has a small facility in Guwahati with around 6 people involved in the operations of the processing plant. It is primarily dedicated to serving around 200 small-scale farmers.

"Currently, our processing activities mainly revolve around king chilli (locally known as 'bhoot jolokia') and ginger, including the production of king chilli paste, pickle, dried king chilli, and king chilli powder,"  the NEFSP founder informed Business North East.

The production capacity isn't massive, given its focus on small-scale farmers. On average, the firm can process nearly half a ton of products per day, although the capacity is not fully utilized at present. They have ample equipment, including large dehydrators, to support their operations.

Although there are no such packaging facilities in the Northeast, Singh noted, there's ample room for growth.

"We are now in the process of establishing a large-scale processing unit, which will be the first of its kind in the Northeast," he said, sharing more insights into the big upcoming project. "We've already acquired two plots of land for our organization—one is earmarked for establishing a formal packaging facility, while the other is intended for large-scale processing of local produce such as ginger, king chilli, and turmeric, where we anticipate processing significant quantities brought in by trucks."

At the processing unit, Singh said, the firm intends to cover a wide array of food products, including spices, rice, processed pickles, candies, and more. "Essentially, we will handle everything except for the actual production of the goods,"  Singh told BNE. "It will be a one-point solution for making the products fit for the market."

Recognizing that many technical aspects come into play after production, posing a challenge for individual farmers or small groups to manage, Singh said they will provide comprehensive support, from design and compliance to FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) registrations, lab testing, and production of packaging materials. "Farmers will be able to access these services through an app or by phone, streamlining the entire process," Singh added.

Once the products are ready, farmers will be given a specific date for collection. They will bring their goods to the facility, where Singh's firm will handle the packaging process efficiently. This streamlined approach will enable them to increase their profits significantly, potentially doubling their current earnings.

Singh said that he initially envisioned the project in Guwahati, but eventually zeroed in on Jagiroad for "several reasons." "As [Jagiroad] is situated a bit further away from Guwahati, it allows us to benefit the more interior regions of the state", he said. "Additionally, Jagiroad boasts convenient connectivity for individuals from Nagaland, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh, as well as those traveling from Shillong and other areas."

This accessibility ensures the company can cater to farmers from multiple states without adding to the congestion in Guwahati, thus keeping traffic manageable.

Previously, they extended packaging assistance to the Assam Plain Tribe Development Corporation under the Prime Minister Van Dhan Yojana, operating under the Trissam brand.

Asked about future plans, Singh said, "We aim to make significant contributions to the new visions and government schemes of Assam. For instance, for initiatives like lakhpati baido, and others, we intend to support them in procurement and packaging. Recently, we collaborated with the Assam Rural Livelihood Mission to assist the self-help groups in developing their packaging, encompassing design, materials, printing, and sales equipment."

The firm also offers training on the value chain of packaging to female self-employed individuals in the state." Leveraging our expertise in technical aspects, we're committed to supporting self-employed individuals across Assam and the wider Northeast,"  Singh said, adding that they are registered exporters and members of the Spices Board of India.

"In coming days, when we establish our full-fledged unit, we plan to avail schemes from them, particularly subsidies for spice processing machines in India", he told BNE.

Pankhi Sarma