Our Bureau

Kolkata, Sept. 29

STATE Bank of India's Bengal circle has mounted a special effort to tap small enterprises, with particular focus on what has been termed as `cluster identification' for segments such as brass & bell metal, foundry and tannery.

The bank has identified 30 brass and bell metal units in Bankura, seven foundries in Howrah and 15 tanneries in North Dinajpur. It is now paying attention to hosiery and garment industries in West Bengal. Being labour intensive, these are known to have good employment generation potential.

Financing of hotels in Darjeeling and small hydel power projects in Sikkim as well as extending loans to flour and rice mills in the State are also on the bank's agenda.

The Bengal circle's recent attempts in this regard are said to have resulted in substantial exposure to small businesses, which now stands at Rs 823 crore, a note prepared by SBI has said. This, in fact, ranks high when compared to many of the other circles, it is claimed.

In the context of the Government's recent declaration to double the flow of agri-credit in three years, the circle has pointed out that it has recorded Rs 566 crore on this front as on August 31, 2005. "We have targeted to double our agriculture credit portfolio well before March 31, 2007", the note said. The figure has increased by over Rs 160 crore over the March 2004 level, it added.

The areas that the bank will concentrate on include floriculture, poultry, tissue culture and inland fisheries. It is also keen on assisting rural godowns, cold storages and seed farms affiliated to the West Bengal Seed Corporation and other private seed growers.

The State, incidentally, has marked five agri export zones pineapple (Darjeeling and elsewhere), potato (Hoogly), mango (Malda), litchi (Murshidabad) and vegetables (Nadia). SBI plans to finance agro-processing units in these zones, including in the proposed food park in Malda.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 30, 2005)
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