9 years on, Food Park in J&K still a pipe-dream

It took seven years for the government to get approval for setting up a mega food park in Jammu and Kashmir but even after 9 years, the park is nowhere in sight.

Neither the agriculture ministry nor the officials of the agriculture department know anything about the project. When an official in the agriculture ministry was asked, he first requested that his name should not appear in the news item and then said that the park is being established by a Special Promoter Vehicle (SPV) namely RFK Green Food Park Private Limited.

He further said that it is this company which should be asked about delay in the completion of the project and not the department. The official further said that the company which is establishing the park was registered on Nov 14, 2012. “A company which is just four year old and is relatively little or no experience of constructing Food Park, should not be expected to do wonders overnight. Let us give them some more time and see what they do with the project of constructing mega Food Park”

However, when this official was asked about cost escalation and extreme delay in completing the project, he said “If hydroelectric projects, roads and water connections take years to complete, food parks should not be a cause of worry.”`He informed that Union Ministry of Food Processing Industries vide its letter dated 19-02-2014 accorded final approval to the SPV for setting up of the Mega Food Park in Jammu and Kashmir.

The project was proposed to be set up with a capital investment of Rs.79.43 Crore and was to be funded from different sources including grant of Rs. 50 crore from Union Ministry of Food Processing, Rs.21.42 Crore as term loan from Bank and Rs.8 Crore as promoters’ contribution.

SPV which is RFK Greens Food Park Private Limited in this case, as on date has reportedly incurred an expenditure of Rs.7.28 crore, out of which Rs.6.71 crore is towards land, Rs. 19.33 Lakh is towards project infrastructure and balance is towards PMC charges and preliminary and pre-operative expenses.

Though the project is already late by more than 7 years since the Mega Food Parks Scheme was launched in the year 2008 but three years also elapsed since September 2012 when the Ministry for Food Processing gave in-principal approval of the setting up Mega Food Park at Lassipora in Pulwama district of Kashmir valley.

Regarding the project, they confirmed that the company which is establishing this Mega Food Park is RFK Greens Food Park Private Limited, which was registered on November 14, 2012.  SPV has four Directors namely Tariq Syed, Abdul Rashid Zargar, Dawood Rashid and Abdul Waheed Kachroo and is a subsidiary company with an asset/liability structure and legal status that makes its obligations secure even if the parent company goes bankrupt.

It needs to be mentioned here that a committee on Agriculture of the Lok Sabha had expressed disappointment over the very slow progress in implementation of Mega Food Parks Scheme launched in the year 2008 in Jammu and Kashmir. The committee outrightly refuted the assertion of the state government that delay in acquisition of contiguous land, complex procedures of obtaining various types of statutory clearances government departments, inability of Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) to take a lead role in execution of the project, lack of cohesiveness amongst the promoters, delays in obtaining term loans were responsible for poor physical performance.

It has directed the Union Food Processing Ministry to take proactive steps in consultation with state government to reduce time lags caused such as problems related to statutory clearance and land acquisition.  The Lok Sabha committee has noted that guidelines for establishing ‘Mega Food Park Scheme’ were issued on 24-08-2008.

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