MUSCAT: Usher Agro Ltd, India’s leading agro-processing company, in a joint venture with Al Mada Project Management Co and Sohar Food Cluster Co will set up a rice and pulses hub at Sohar Port to distribute the products within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Usher Agro Ltd, through its 100 per cent subsidiary Usher Worldwide FZE and Prime Trading Co, signed the agreement with Al Mada Project Management Co and Sohar Food Cluster Co for setting up the rice and pulses storage, processing and packaging facility at Port of Sohar, Usher Agro Ltd said in a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) on Friday.

The initial facility will be set up at a cost of US$40mn. The facility will contain a polishing, grading, blending and packaging unit for 100,000 tonnes per annum (TPA) of premium long grain rice, including basmati rice, and a milling unit for 100,000 TPA of pulses.

The facility will also contain a 25,000 TPA rice fortification plant under the patented technology provided by PATH – a non-profit organisation supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The rice from the facility will be distributed within MENA countries whereas the pulses will be distributed in India and MENA countries. The parties expect to commence the operations of the facility by the end of FY2016, Usher Agro Ltd said.

Alpen Capital India acted as the sole financial adviser to Usher Agro on this project, according to a press release issued by Alpen Capital on Sunday.

“The proposed food logistics and processing hub at the Port of Sohar will provide a unique opportunity for the new JV in a strategic location, capitalising on direct access to agro/food berth and proximity to many export markets in the GCC and the MENA region,” said Essa al Ghurair, promoter and managing director of Sohar Food Cluster Co.

Dr Vinod Kumar Chaturvedi, promoter and managing director of Usher Agro Ltd, said India is the largest exporter of rice and net importer of pulses and the JV aims to participate in this two-way trade with Sohar Port as hub. “We are confident that this project once launched will help in food security efforts of the region and contribute to the creation of significant shareholder value,” Chaturvedi said.

Rohit Walia, executive chairman of Alpen Capital India and Alpen Capital (ME), said, “We are extremely delighted that all parties have come to a mutually beneficial agreement to commence the execution of this project. We are proud to be associated with Al Mada Project Management, Sohar Food Cluster and Usher Agro and hope that our expertise in the GCC-India corridor will add value to this landmark project at Sohar Port.”