Punjab's entrepreneurs, farmers, look to eastern Europe
Chandigarh, Nov 9 (IANS) Punjab's entrepreneurs and farmers are now looking beyond traditional destination countries like the US, Britain, Australia and Canada and are exploring opportunities in countries like the Czech Republic and Ukraine.
'The Czech Republic is a permanent member of the European Union (EU); so an Indian investor moving there would enjoy all the benefits at par with businessman residing in any country of the EU,' B.S. Sandhu, chairman and managing director of WWICS, told IANS.
'From the Czech Republic an Indian investor can move to any other country of the EU for transporting his goods and can expand his business in the whole continent without any hassle,' said Sandhu.
WWICS is a 15-year-old company dealing in immigration, settlement, strategic business consultancy and real estate all over the world. It has its offices in various countries like India, Canada, Australia, the UAE, Britain and Kenya.
Sandhu added: 'Around 200 people have already applied to the Czech Republic in the investors' category through us and are in the final stage of moving to Prague', the capital.
In the investor's category one has to invest anywhere between $100,000 and $300,000.
'There are sure returns of around $3,000-4,000 per month in the initial stages that will keep on increasing and gradually the investor would become eligible to apply for permanent residence there,' said Sandhu.
'Till date, we have sent around 60,000 families to Canada and over 10,000 families to the UK. If we count in numbers then over 200,000 people have been settled there through us and now we have moved our attention towards the unexplored European countries.'
A three-member team of WWICS has recently returned from a 15-day trip to the Czech Republic and Ukraine, where they have signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with various companies and explored business and farming opportunities there.
'Ukraine will become a permanent member of the EU by 2010. It requires huge investment in the agri-industry. Over two million hectares of arable land are lying vacant in Ukraine and the conditions there are quite cohesive for intensive farming,' J.S. Ahluwalia, vice president of WWICS, told IANS after a trip to Ukraine.
'Fifty percent of the world's black soil that is considered to be the most fertile is found in Ukraine. Our farmers will not require tubewells as the soil in Ukraine already has plenty of water in it so there is very little need for irrigation,' said Ahluwalia.
He added: 'In Ukraine, our farmers could get the land on much more economical basis if we compare it with India. There one can get land on lease by paying only $7 per month for one hectare.
'Indian farmers with a net worth of $200,000 would be able to establish a 100-hectare farm in Ukraine and would start earning $3,000-4,000 per month.'
A WWICS official said: 'First, a group of interested farmers and investors will be sent on an exploratory tour to Ukraine and the Czech Republic in March 2009, so that they can see the land available and business opportunities on their own before taking any final decision.'
'Wheat, maize, beetroot and sunflower are the main crops of Ukraine and their government promotes the farming and dairy businesses in their country in a big way. The dairy business has immense scope in Ukraine as 70 percent of milk is imported from other countries,' said Ahluwalia.
He admitted that language would be a problem, 'but there are many English-speaking youngsters and one can easily hire an interpreter by just paying around $300 per month'.
Many farmers in Punjab who have recently got millions of rupees from the government as their farms were acquired for development projects are considering these options.
'I have got around Rs.70 million from the government, for the land that they acquired from me for the construction of an international airport. Now I have no work to do but I am seriously thinking of investing in agriculture in Ukraine as there I can buy land at throwaway prices,' said Mahipal Singh, a resident of Jeoheri village in Punjab, around 10 km from here.
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