Malaysia-based Saba Industries Chairman and CEO Malini Saba on Wednesday said the privately-held company will invest $100 million in the rice sector in India and Thailand, as it plans to export the staple by partnering with local farmers."We are looking at a $100 million investment between Thailand and India. And based on how much more money we need to pump in, we will do that in the next phase. We plan to start our first phase in Uttar Pradesh," Saba told IANS during her visit to India.The global exporter of agricultural commodities plans to enter warehousing and drying space in India's rice sector. The Kuala Lumpur-based firm will set up about 10 warehouses in Uttar Pradesh and as many dryers with an aim to dry 1,000 tonnes rice per day."In the initial 2-3 years, we plan to focus on Uttar Pradesh, partnering with the farmers there. As we did in other south-east Asian countries, we plan to support the farmers in India with farm equipment and fertilisers for free and procure their rice and get it processed at local mills."To start with, we are looking at exporting 20,000 to 25,000 tonnes of rice, particularly Basmati, per month. We have a ready clientele in the US, Middle East and other parts of the world," Saba said. Farm equipment will help farmers plant and harvest paddy faster, she said.The founder of the $650-million company also deals in mining of iron ore and gold."Transportation and warehousing are the major challenges in the agriculture sector in most countries like India. One of the things we discovered in India is that the drying capacity is quite limited despite the presence of a number of mills. We plan to get in large dryers with capacities ranging from 10,000 to 20,000 tonnes a month," she said.After Uttar Pradesh, the company will replicate the model in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal and later to other states to scale up its operations in India.
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