Our Bureau

Kolkata, July 12

BENGAL Tools Ltd, a Shrachi Group company with two separate divisions of engineering and farm implements, has announced plans to strengthen its marketing and technology tie-up with the State-owned Zhejiang Sifang Group of China, acknowledged as China's largest manufacturer of power tillers (also labelled as Walking Tractors).

The $120-million Chinese corporation, which is engaged in agricultural machinery, export-import trade and real estate development, has also not ruled out a manufacturing joint venture with Bengal Tools.

The group, which sells nearly 25,000 power tillers annually to Bangladesh, sees huge potential for its pull-drive power tillers in India, highly suitable for rice cultivation in small-sized lands. The Union Government offers a unit subsidy of Rs 30,000 for such power tillers, which cost around Rs 1 lakh.

The only two manufacturers of power tillers in India now are Kamco (Kerala Agro Machinery Corporation) and VST Tillers (based in Bangalore), which have collaborations with Japanese majors Kubota and Mitsubishi respectively. They sell around 6,000 numbers each, out of a total market size of 15,000 or so, indicating the huge potential that exists.

Addressing a news conference here on Monday, Mr Lin Guangpin, President (and Senior Engineer) of the Zhejiang Sifang Group Corp, said the Sifang-made Shrachi power tillers, marketed by Bengal Tools Ltd, have recorded a sale of 1,800 units in 2004-05, against the 1,330 sold in the previous year, registering a 30 per cent growth.

He said the Chinese group was confident Bengal Tools will reach the targeted sale of 2,500 power tillers during 2005-06, going by the first quarter sale of more than 600 units. Bengal Tools was now among the top international dealers of `Sifang', which manufactures 12,000 power tillers every month, with annual production of 1.5 lakh numbers.

Mr Ravi Todi, Managing Director of Shrachi group of companies, said one of the major hurdles to increasing the sales of such handy power tillers in India was the Government's refusal to allow it for road use in transportation of farm produce.

On the business prospects, he said Bengal Tools was now doing around Rs 30 crore, of which, the agro division accounted for Rs 20 crore. He put the sales target for the current year at around Rs 45-50 crore. The company has two assembling units in Dum Dum (near Kolkata) and Bangalore (catering to the southern markets)

The Sifang Group Corp, founded in 1961, is one of the leading Chinese enterprises, which specialises in manufacture of walking tractors and other farm implements

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