Staff Correspondent

State Govt.-owned HPMC is running in losses

SHIMLA: Within a day of the visit and suggestion of Union Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh to introduce "a private element" in the running of the State Government-owned Horticulture Produce Marketing Corporation, the Himachal Pradesh Government has revealed the plans of Reliance Industries to take over the purported unviable Corporation under its charge.

The Minister, who had come here on a mission to try and boost exports from the backward State, had suggested to the Government to float global tenders inviting private companies to sell and strengthen the brand name HPMC.

According to sources, experts from Reliance have already met the Chief Minister and expressed their desire to take over or offer partnership in the Corporation and expand the marketing and cold storage network in the State. The company is already making waterproof plastic type apple cartons for this fruit-rich hill State.

The State-owned HPMC with a turnover of around Rs. 43 crores is running at a loss at present but has a nationwide network of outlets providing employment to local people. Mr. Jairam Ramesh had advised a 50 per cent partnership for any private concern to uplift the sinking spirits of HPMC juices and other apple by-products. The private companies should not only eye the raw materials in agriculture but also be involved in marketing and processing, he had observed.

The Union Government already plans to increase the special economic package for non-industrial hill States like Himachal and Uttranchal up to the year 2010. Otherwise the package was to end in 2007 and that was bringing uncertainties in investments here, said officials.