Keventer to roll out its Dwarf Cavendish bananas soon

KOLKATA: Kolkata-based Keventer Agro, which has captured one-third of the city market for bananas, is now gearing up to expand its procurement, processing and marketing reach in nine more eastern Indian cities this year at an investment of Rs.50 crore.

And, that’s not all. The Rs.400-crore company - flagship of the Kolkata-based MK Jalan-controlled Rs.2,000-crore Keventer Group - is aiming for a national roll out of popular ‘Dwarf Cavendish’ variety, also referred as Grand Nain (G-9) variety, in a phased manner.

Acquisitions ahead
"Over the next two years, Keventer Group will invest Rs.200 crore in food business,” Mayank Jalan, Managing Director of Keventer Agro told BusinessLine.

“Of the total investment, Rs.50 crore will go in establishing the network in nine cities; Rs.68 crore is earmarked for setting up milk collection and processing unit near Bhagalpur in Bihar. And, a lot of funds will be geared up towards acquisitions,” he says.

Mayank says the group is “in conversation with a few players” for acquisition in the existing areas of the group’s food business - that includes dairy, fresh fruits (banana), fruit pulp (mango pulp), sesame seeds, spices and others.

The dairy business is spearheaded by Rs.280-crore Metro Dairy Ltd. The rest of the food business is managed by Keventer Agro. Nearly half of the company’s turnover comes from exports. Of the total export turnover (approximately Rs.200 crore); half is attributed to mango pulp, followed by sesame seeds (30 per cent).

Focussing home turf
With an aim to clock $2 billion turnover in food business in 10 years, Mayank is clearly betting big on banana. He wants to move fast, and grab a sizable pie of the country’s banana market.

India produces close to 17 million tonnes of banana, mostly for internal consumption. The top 10 producing destinations are Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam and Odisha. As a Kolkata-based company Keventer has already established its presence in its home State and is now out to expand to neighbouring Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand and Odisha.

The company provides saplings of pest and disease resistant variety to farmers. It takes 11 months to give the first fruit. In the meantime, the company sets up its collection, ripening and processing centres to cater fresh fruits to the local markets.

Farmers to benefit
Mayank claims his business is beneficial to both end-consumer and farmer. While the consumers are getting improved quality fruit at market price, the farmer earns higher than market price.

“We will be sourcing directly from the farmers. And we will be paying them a higher price than what they get in the mandis,” he says.

The company is currently working with 4,000 small and marginal farmers in Bengal. And, if Mayank is to be believed the association has increased the average income per acre of farmers by Rs.1.23 lakh a year.