Read on to learn about how this leading sugar business is expanding its scope to cater to other sectors, such as green energy, and the recent trends that influence the growth of the brand, the people associated with it, and the industry at large.
Roshan Lal TamakMr Roshan Lal Tamak heads the Sugar and Distillery businesses at DCM Shriram Ltd as its Executive Director & CEO. He is a distinguished professional with over three decades of experience in leading large organisations towards strategic growth in the Indian Sugar Sector. He made his mark in the industry by successfully handling a gamut of assignments ranging from setting up greenfield as well as brownfield expansion projects, managing strategic acquisitions, and turning around companies during his tenure with leading Indian and multinational companies like DCM Shriram, Balrampur, Dhampur, Mawana, and Olam International.
Agriculture as a sector emotionally appealed to Mr Tamak as he wanted to work for the betterment of the lives of farmers in India. He pursued graduation in agriculture and thereby joined the agriculture sector. He is a passionate sustainability practitioner and has been championing the cause of income growth of both small and marginal farmers by significantly improving agricultural productivity and introducing good management practices. He also brings in the experience of running multi-stakeholder partnerships with multilateral agencies, global FMCG majors, civil society organisations and development banks for the furtherance of sustainability initiatives.
His conscious efforts to embed sustainability in business strategy have led to significant achievements in agri-productivity improvement. He has spearheaded many digitisation and information technology initiatives in the entire value chain from farm to factory, like establishing the e-Suvidha Call Center, e-Suvidha farmer mobile app to act as a one-stop solution related to sugarcane farming and other areas, along with AI initiative and experimental pilot projects.
Mr Tamak’s contribution to the sugar sector has been recognised nationally and globally with many accolades. He has been actively involved in various industry forums, too.
Sugar is the second largest agro-based industry in India, involving both private sector and cooperative sector units. How has the industry transformed over the last decade? What are some of the recent trends you have witnessed?
Could you tell us about the sustainable sugarcane program “Meetha Sona”? What are its guiding principles? What has been the impact of this program on farmers, the environment, and the industry in general?
- Training and capacity building
- Water use efficiency
- Soil health management by increasing organic carbon content in the soil
- Mechanisation by developing micro-entrepreneurs (custom-hiring model)
- Good agronomic practices for productivity enhancement
- Integrated pest management, including biological control
- Women empowerment/gender inclusion
The impact of this program has been rewarding for the farmers, the environment, and the industry.
- Sugarcane yields have increased substantially (20% to 25%) in the last 5-6 years.
- Water conserved over the last five years is 574 billion litres as verified by the Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research (IISR), Lucknow, which has been possible after proper education of water conservation practices like trash mulching, composting, etc. and capacity building of farmers.
- About 265 entrepreneurs have been developed in the catchment area of our four units to facilitate farmers for custom hiring of agri-machinery. As a result, smallholders get access to modern machines, which ultimately increases their yield.
- Three sugar mills of DCM Shriram and 5000 small farmers have received Bonsucro certification, the highest ever smallholders certification globally so far.
What is the significance of this certification for farmers, other stakeholders, and consumers?
- Create value across the supply chain;
- Improve the environmental impact of sugarcane; and
- Strengthen human rights and decent work in sugarcane farming and milling.
“Meetha Sona” also encourages farmers to adopt climate-smart agriculture practices. How willing are they to adopt these new scientific practices? Does technology play a key role in aiding faster adoption and impact measurement?
Technological adoption is no longer an option in today’s competitive market and to meet consumers’ high demands. How is the sugar industry benefiting from technological advancements? What is the way forward to address some of the current productivity and sustainability challenges?
Besides this, with the High-pressure boilers, there has been a significant increase in power production per ton of bagasse. Similarly, by using VFDs (variable-frequency drives) and other power-saving devices, there has been a reduction in power consumption per ton of cane. Now, the industry is in the process of adopting AI/ML tools as well.
On the farm side, there has been wide-scale adoption of good practices like wide row spacing in planting and trench planting methods. Now Agtech like remote sensing, satellite imagery, sensor, and other AI tools have also been introduced in various agri operations.
Ethanol has gained popularity as a renewable biofuel, and Brazil, the largest producer of sugarcane globally, has mandated a blending of 27% ethanol with gasoline. It allowed them to save about 0.5 million barrels per day of gasoline and $13 billion in imports in 2019 alone. The Government of India seems to be following Brazil’s example with its recent Ethanol Blending Program. There are many evident benefits to this program and we would like to learn more about them. Could you share with us your thoughts on this?
- Promoting environment-friendly fuels
- Reduction of crude import
- Injecting liquidity into the sugarcane sector
- Generate employment
The 2018 National Policy on Biofuels broadens the scope for raw material procurement for ethanol production. The policy targets a 20% blending percentage by 2025.
This decision of the Government will not only help in reaching the target objectives of the National Policy on Biofuels but also help in reducing excess sugar inventories by diverting molasses and sugarcane juice for ethanol production. This move will greatly help the sugar industry during surplus years and improve the liquidity of sugar mills.
What is your vision for the sugar industry for the next decade and what critical role would technology play in achieving this vision?
On the input side, we need to work on research/breeding of sugarcane varieties to meet futuristic requirements and promote mechanisation, soil health improvement, and water conservation techniques.
On the output side, sugar needs to be repositioned properly. There are immense opportunities for diversification like Bio-CNG (compressed natural gas) and ethanol generation.
The sugar sector is uniquely placed and can play a pivotal role in providing impetus to the food processing sector of the country. It has the following inherent advantages:
- Sugar complexes are located exactly at the origin of agri-produce. All sugar factories have a well-oiled extension network that can be used for educating growers for the production of other crops as well and the supply chain linkage is well established.
- Sugar factories have the basic infrastructure readily available for food processing, such as power, manpower, machinery and production capabilities. The industry produces excess green power that can be used for setting up cold chain infrastructure and warehousing facilities adjacent to the existing mills.
- On the market side, the fundamental market linkages for selling processed food are available, and selling other products will be an adjacency only.