New York, April 24: The delegation from Sikkim headed by Lok Nath Sharma, Minister of Agriculture and Horticulture and Animal Husbandry & Veterinary Services Departments, along with Dr S.Anbalagan, IFS, CEO, Sikkim Organic Farming Development Agency (SOFDA), Sudhir Giri, CEO, SSOCA and Binita Chettri, Quality Manager, SSOCA held series of meetings individually with few importers at the office of Consulate General of India, New York. The meeting discussed the possible areas of co-operation and collaboration in the marketing of agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry products from the State of Sikkim as well in creating facilities and infrastructure for processing and marketing of the organic commodities.
The series of meetings held were with:
1. Avi Basu, CEO & Chairman, Wingsure: Wingsure is a digital insurance solution enterprise aiming to leverage next-generation technologies in the protection of lives and livelihoods of farmers. The CEO mentioned that the digital solution offered with respect to settling of insurance claims in calamities and crop failures is understanding risk through collection of data from farmers as well as based on the climate models available from various sources. Based on the information from both farmers and insurers, the insurance claims are facilitated. He informed that presently, agriculture and animal husbandry sectors are covered.
2. Barry Schiffman, Senior Advisor & Board members, Mandala Capital: Mandala Capital is a private equity firm focused on long term and sustainable investments across the food value chain in India and South East Asia. Schiffman said that the company has been investing in India since 2011 in core infrastructure development such as dairy project in West Bengal, Irrigation system in Maharashtra and farm fresh business in spices. The total investment to this date is 500 million USD. During the discussion, it was highlighted that investment was required in the State for not only creating infrastructure for post-harvest management but also for partnership for developing these sectors. Schiffman, requested that the following information be provided for making intervention by the company:
- Areas of priority for investment in Sikkim,
- Size of investment,
- Identify technologies that need to be introduced in the field of agriculture and allied sectors.
Minister Sharma indicated that the dairy sector needs immediate attention and the Government would seek intervention as the area of priority and regarding the size of investment, it was informed that concerned department would be consulted and the same would be communicated in due course of time. As regards the technological interventions, all concerned departments would be involved before a decision is arrived at.
3. Kushal Choksi, Co-founder, Element Truffles: Element Truffles is an Ayurveda inspired food startup that makes chocolates with a variety of flavours which are infused with herbs and flavours like aswagandha, ginger, turmeric, beetroot, cardamom, rose etc. He said his major requirement would be cocoa which he presently is sourcing from Ecuador. Since the other elements are used only as infusion, their requirement is small. He wanted to know if cocoa can be cultivated in Sikkim for his company. He also mentioned that in the recent days, extracting protein powder from peas is the new mantra and it could be a new business opportunity for Sikkim if interested. Minister Sharma indicated that there is a possibility for Sikkim for supply of peas and we need to start the process of discussion on this. He also suggested that meetings need to be organized between the Government of Sikkim and Element Truffles and take it forward.
4. Bhavani Parameswar, President, Indivate, (An ITC group company): The ITC group is a multinational corporation of private capital dedicated to the commercialisation of products, services and solutions of information technology and communications with the objective of contributing in the of value and growth of its strategic partners.
Bhavani introduced that ITC is a famous brand and are diversifying their business activities into the organic sector and are looking for crops such as millets, spices, seeds of flax and pumpkin. She said the company was also interested in medicinal plants. Minister Sharma suggested that the company should invest in creating a world class testing facility for organic/food products and CEO, SOFDA suggested that there is an opportunity for engaging ITC in the creation of logistics for the supply chain. It was decided that a team from India visit Sikkim to understand and present the opportunities available to take it further.
5. Deepak Amin, President & CEO, Deep Foods: Deep foods is a food manufacturer based in Union Township, New Jersey that was founded in 1977. The company previously produced the Tandoor Chef line of frozen food products and later diversified to pizzas, and ice cream. Deepak informed that the company is into prepared food business and imports about 5000 containers of products from India to the US. There are 1000 SKUs under the company and they are looking for organic commodities range. Currently they are launching an organic beverage, ayurvedic elixir which is not processed but cold pressed. They are also looking to source herbs and spices. The opportunity lies for the State for supply of the above items and it was decided that meetings should happen between the Government of Sikkim and the company’s team in Gujarat and identify the way forward.
Apart from the meetings, Minister Lok Nath Sharma also gave interviews to the following news channels/correspondents:
- Yoshita Singh, Correspondent, PTI
- Ashok Vyas, Chief New York Correspondent, ITV Gold
- Vikas Nangia, Senior Producer, Anchor, TV Asia
The delegation also met Randhir Jaiswal, Consul General and Dr Varun Jeph, Deputy Consul General at the Consulate General of India office, New York. The Consul General extended a warm welcome to the delegation and assured of all possible help for the marketing of various products of Sikkim viz., organic and tourism in the US. He suggested that the Government of Sikkim should follow up with the business houses with whom the meetings were held today to ensure collaboration takes place. He said that the United States is a very huge market for organic commodities as people here have started to consume more of organic foods after the CoVID-19 pandemic. He said that the Government should aggressively market the various commodities in the US market and the Consulate will extend all possible help in this regard. He also suggested that good quality publicity material should be prepared and campaigns should be started in major cities in the US, especially New York. The delegation also brought out the NOP accreditation issue for SSOCA with the Consul General who assured of help. Accreditation for NOP from the USDA would immensely help SSOCA to not only secure business opportunities as a certifying body. It should be mentioned here that earlier, APEDA used to provide accreditation to certifying bodies for NOP standards and after that authority has been withdrawn, USDA now issues accreditation to certifying bodies directly and the matter will be taken up during the meeting with USDA in the course of this week.
Source, IPR, Government of Sikkim