August 29, 2007 / 5:58 AM / 12 years ago

India's Bharti, Rothschild food JV seeking partners

MUMBAI, Aug 29 (Reuters) - India’s Bharti Enterprises said its fresh-produce joint venture with ELRo Holdings, an investment arm of the Rothschild family, wanted strategic partnerships with international companies to help it expand operations.

FieldFresh Foods (P) Ltd was set up in India in 2004 as an equal venture of the two companies to produce and export fresh vegetables and fruits.

The partners were now looking at scaling up the firm’s operations, and were looking at areas such as food processing and directly supplying produce to businesses, Bharti said on Wednesday.

More partners were needed “in light of the significant logistical challenges in India,” it said.

The Business Standard paper reported on Wednesday that the venture was likely to rope in fruit and vegetable producer Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc (FDP.N) as a third partner.

A Bharti spokesman declined to comment on the report.

Local media had reported that ELRo Holdings may exit the venture following Bharti’s agreement with Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) for cash-and-carry wholesale operations in India.

But the Bharti spokesman said ELRo would remain a partner in FieldFresh.

Bharti has said FieldFresh may supply Bharti Wal-Mart Pvt Ltd, as well as Bharti Retail’s planned network of supermarkets.

It is estimated that nearly 40 percent of fresh produce in India is wasted because of inadequate storage, processing and transport facilities.

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