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Bangalore, April 12

TATA Coffee is looking at expanding its operations overseas and may set up an instant coffee manufacturing facility in Uganda.

Tata Coffee's Managing Director, Mr M.H. Ashraff, recently led an official delegation to Uganda on the invitation of the Government there to study investment climate, labour scene and cost of production among others.

The delegation also held discussions with the Ugandan Coffee Development Authority and the Government officials, he said. "If all goes well, we may invest Rs 20-25 crore in setting up a 3,600 tonne instant coffee making unit," Mr Ashraff said even while declining to comment on a timeframe.

As Uganda is one the most backward countries, its exports enjoy a special status from countries such as the US, the European Union, Russia, Japan among others. "We may plan to capitalise on that," Mr Ashraff said. "Currently, these countries allow duty-free imports of commodities from Uganda. Further there was a possibility of allowing value-added imports in due course and it would surely benefit the new project," he added.

Tata Coffee may also leverage its Ugandan operations to foray into the Chinese market. "A sizeable quantity of Ugandan coffee is currently sold in China, which has emerged as one of the big coffee consumer, through a joint venture," Mr Ashraff said. Further, the company is also exploring growth opportunities in other African countries, Vietnam and even in India, he said.

Tata Coffee's instant coffee exports for 2004-05 stood at 4,900 tonnes, up from 3,700 tonnes in the previous year.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 13, 2005)
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