KOLKATA: After Tata Motors, is Metro Cash & Carry also having a rethink on its investment in the city? Speculation on this front was stoked on Thursday following a spokesman of the German wholesale giant stating that the company is “currently evaluating all options,” including whether it should go ahead with its Bengal plans following its continued inability to obtain a fresh APMC licence to sell agricultural produce.
Unlike Reliance Retail which managed to circumvent the APMC (Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee) problem in the state by choosing not to sell agricultural items on its own at its recently opened stores here, Metro Cash & Carry does not enjoy the same luxury as a large component of its income comes from selling agricultural produce to hotels and restaurants. In a carefully worded statement, though, Metro Cash & Carry said that “in spite of unforeseen difficulties,” it had invested Rs 140 crore on its distribution centre in Kolkata and recruited and trained over 350 employees for this facility on the invitation of the state government to establish a presence here. “This (investment) was done with an agreed pre-requisite that in order to provide to farmers and small traders the desired benefits, Metro Cash & Carry would require the license to deal in agri commodities.
In line with this, the state government granted a license to trade in APMC commodities in 2005 which was subsequently renewed twice in 2006 and 2007 and was to be valid till March 2008,” the statement said. “In June 2007, the said license was unilaterally withdrawn by the APMC authorities. The company filed for issuance of fresh APMC licence in March 2008 and is still awaiting the same,” the statement added. Agriculture Marketing Board chief Naren Chatterjee, whose organisation issues APMC licences, however, refused to comment on the issue. Chatterjee, who belongs to the Forward Bloc party, has been at the forefront in resisting the entry of big corporates in retail of agricultural commodities.
Earlier during the day, Sunderbans development minister Kanti Ganguly met agriculture minister and Forward Bloc leader Naren De at Writers’ Buildings to urge him to renew the APMC licence earlier granted to Metro Cash & Carry. De, who discussed the issue with the chief minister on Thursday, said Metro officials had met him a few days ago. “Since I don’t know about the details, I said I will find out,” De said. Ganguly said the project should come up because it involves many jobs.
19 Sep 2008, 0459 hrs IST,TNN