- Wednesday | 06 Feb, 2013
- Anam Khan
- Research Reports,Project Publications
India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the South Asian trio, with the majority of the population dependent on Agriculture, have been culturally sharing the same ethos, having been there for centuries together as a single geographical/social/ political entity. The sugar industry in these countries is the second largest, next only to textile and employs more than 300 Million people as their support base. As a tradition, many of these sugar mills have been involving in philanthropic activities in their own way. Most of the new entities are in the cross roads – either realise their responsibilities to the society and the environment for their own sustainability and grow or cease to exist. The need to take care of the interests of various stake holders of the industry is being strongly felt. The business houses are slowly realising their potential to the success of the business depends on resources, poor small farmers who is the critical raw material supplier, farm workers, employees, local community, civil society, Governing bodies and the Environment. They can ill afford to limit themselves, being answerable to their Investors and customers.
Further they need to manage entire Value chain from farmers to factory to consumer in addition to taking care of environment, local community in and around factory as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility as a corporate citizen.
Even though large number of alternative technologies to improve products was introduced in these countries, majority of farms still practise subsistence farming. The challenges of these sugar mills in these countries are how to transform its subsistence farming to highly productive and sustainable farming without affecting the environment. While previously seen only as a cost, sustainability has become a clear differentiator–driving business to increase sustainable practices not only to improve the planet and its inhabitants, but increasingly improve profits through process efficiencies and operational optimization. During the last two decade industry have been under various types of takeover merges etc by business entities. The subsistence agriculture produces barely enough for survival of the farm household and as such it can barely make a significant contribution to economic growth.
Management of sugar mills in these countries vary. India and Pakistan are under two cater, cooperatives owned by state or farmers, Private Mills owned by individuals or corporate. In Bangladesh all the sugar mills are own by state. Most of the efficient and profit making sugar mills are in private sector, where modernization, high capacity crushing integrated plant with cogeneration, distilleries are being practised.
Inefficient mills are predominantly state or cooperative societies where the mills are with low infrastructure, no modernization like no cogeneration or distilleries. These mills depend on substantial levels of costly government subsidisation, which is unlikely to be sustainable in the long run, thus jeopardising many livelihoods.
There is an urgent need to identify the actions and impacts of their actions on the stakeholder groups and their responsibilities towards the larger Society and the Environment for their own sustainability. Appropriate and proven Quality Systems, Standards and Guidelines are available for improving production, efficiency and sustainability. It is expected of them to adopt these Standards and guidelines as a part of their day to day business, apart from the Statutory and Regulatory requirements. Many of their own fellow sugar mills and other Industry colleagues have been doing exemplary work in their own domain, which can be a bench mark for their own progress, if adopted with its due seriousness and commitment. Sugar being a regulated and controlled commodity in these countries, the policies and strategies demonstrated by these Governments can play a major role and need to be supportive and encouraging to enable sustainable production of Sugarcane and Sugar.