Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday inaugurated ITC's new integrated food manufacturing and logistics facility at Halthikriwal near Kapurthala, which he said would give major fillip to the state's food processing sector and help farming in the state.
ITC said that it was first of its kind unit in the country which brought different types of processing and productions at one place.
Spread over 72 acres, with an initial investment outlay of approximately Rs1,500 crore, the facility will manufacture ITC's popular food brands.
Besides supporting the farmers, the project would also help generate employment in the state, the chief minister said at the inaugural ceremony.
Amarinder said while Punjab was contributing the biggest share to the food reserves of the country the state was in dire need to diversify, especially to find alternatives to water-guzzling paddy as the state was facing shortage of water also.
"Such food processing units would help farmers to diversify and to increase their income apart from generating employment in the food processing sector," he said.
The plant, which would purchase wheat, potatoes and other crops from the region, would bring to the state the much-needed revenue he said.
Amarinder expressed the hope that the ITC Group would also expand its hotels portfolio in Punjab.
ITC chief executive officer Sanjiv Puri said the company received speedy clearances to complete the plant's construction in record time and the company would try to expand in Punjab due to ease of doing business there.
He said this facility would also include a wheat mandi to enable ITC to procure directly from farmers, reducing transaction costs, improving efficiency and thereby raising farmer incomes.
"In the future we shall also explore the procurement of fruits, vegetables and milk from the state in addition to the current sourcing of wheat. Already, the company's B Natural fruit juices brand has a special variant named after a Punjab fruit 'Punjab Da Kinnow' for which it sources locally from the state," he said.
He said when the unit reached its full production capacity, it would procure two lakh tonnes of wheat for producing wheat flour and 'maida' (refined flour). He also revealed that the company would have its first milk beverages unit in Kapurthala.
Referring to the plight of potato farmers, who were forced to dump their produce on the roads because of their inability to sell it at good prices, Amarinder Singh underlined the need to end the crisis with projects like this.
He said the ITC project would bring new seeds and techniques that would enable the farmers to produce potatoes that would find a ready market.