Indian sugar industry’s major player Nirani Group is looking to evolve beyond the traditional sugar business model and expand further as it targets new long-term supply deals for the ethanol, leaving sugar as a by product. The company’s Managing Director – Mr. Vijay Nirani told ChiniMandi News in an interview.
Speaking on his assessment on the sugar season in terms of sugar production, exports and profitability he said, “With a very good monsoon this year, Karnataka is set to see a record breaking crushing season this year. The district of Bagalkot itself has forecasted a crushing of 14 million Mt, which is the highest ever. This year is an opportunity to crush with high efficiency and try and make it even with the preceding 3 bad seasons where we had to face huge natural calamities like droughts and flash floods. The high crushing that is forecasted is not all merry, as there will be a huge gap between demand and supply as there is going to excess production of sugar, it is going to be a challenge in itself this year to get a good realisation for sugar.
With speculations from the Government of India, that they may not consider giving subsidy for exports, it will only multiply the challenges in hand. Though mills in the state and the country have a great chance to make up for the accumulated losses in the past, with good availability of quality cane, the millers are all set to exhibit their talents by ensuring high efficiency crushing with maximum value additions, the true crux of profitability lies with the sugar market dynamics, the Govt. has to ensure proper regulation to make sure the mills get a fair share in order to ensure timely and proper payments to farmers who are already in great distress due to continued draught, flash floods and now the spread of this deadly pandemic of COVID-19.
On being asked how he sees the prices of sugar in Karnataka State considering the aftermath of Covid-19 and no announcement of hike in MSP Nirani said, “It is definitely going to be a great challenge to get a proper realisation for sugar though there is an Minimum Selling Price (MSP), if we look at the pretext of MSP being set at ₹3100 is itself not a thorough price, in order to bridge the cost gap between FRP to MSP the MSP has to be revised to ₹3500. Since sugar being an essential commodity there is not going to be a huge drop in consumption by any means at the same time we know there is already carried forward stock from the last season and the production this year is going to be massive by all measures and the consumption of sugar is not going to increase all of a sudden. This is definitely going to directly impact the price, the symptoms have already begun, the rates are already in a downward trajectory.”
Sharing views about the growth prospect in Karnataka state for the sugar industry he shared, “It is definitely going to be value addition and ensuring zero wastage, we need to ensure there is a proper backward and a forward integration for all the mass that is being generated or put into use in the mills.”
“The major advantages that the sugar industries have are yet untapped by many, with just sugar cane as a raw material, we can generate – Sugar, jaggery powder, jaggery cakes, sugar syrup, icing sugar, Electricity, Pulp from Bagasse, furniture from bagasse, biodegradable products from bagasse, CNG and Bio gases, bio fuels, chemicals, ENA, Ethanol the list goes on. The key to sustain is to add value to every product, rather create products of value and not just depend on sugar as a product.” He further added.
Over the couple of years, Nirani Group has been widening its wings in the business of sugar, answering whether there are any further plans on expansion in capacity and beyond Karnataka Nirani said, “We started off about 2 decades ago as the smallest industry in the country with a crushing capacity of 500 mT per day, but now stand tall with a consolidated crushing capacity of 60,000mT with 230 MW of Co-Generation and with allied integration spread across 6 mills. We have understood the weight that the sector carries and envision the thousands of lives that each of our mills have an effect on. We have been turning around sick units in the state, like Kedarnath Sugars and Agro, Badami Sugars Ltd, Pandavapura SSk, Sreerama Sugars SSK, SPR sugars, these were all closed/distressed units that we took over and are being run professionally and successfully, directly helping out all the families that were associated with those mills by means of employment, by crushing farmers cane in time, by creating many unorganised businesses around the campuses and creating revenue for the state and the country.
Coming towards, how we at Nirani Group are taking measures to step up for the Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP); our chairman Shri Murugesh R Nirani ji was one of the pioneers of this EBP programme, he being a close associate in the govt and decision making, had key impact in developing of this scheme. As a group we already have a production capacity of 650 KLPD and are in an advanced stage of expanding the capacities to over 1000 KLPD by December of 2021.
The EBP program has truly been a blessing not just for the health of the sugar industry but also achieves major goals like, reducing crude imports, directly benefiting our FOREX and addressing major ecological crises.
We were one of the first in the state to divert sugarcane juice to Ethanol, during the previous crushing season 19-20, we have produced close to 16 Million litres of Ethanol from Sugarcane juice/Syrup.
Going forward also we have all the plans to divert maximum of sugar into producing Ethanol we estimate a production of close to 96 Million liters of Ethanol purely from Sugarcane juice/syrup, the decision to allow Sugar cane juice/Syrup/B-heavy molasses for Ethanol and giving attractive incentives have been a landmark policy in the country for Sugar Sector.
On being asked, what long term policies should be announced by the Govt. for the sugar industry to develop he said, “The Govt. should first eliminate the EBP hinges, like allowing for OMCs to enter into a 5 year supply contract and bringing in 2nd round of Interest subvention scheme, the GOI has already addressed a big crux, the enhancement of rate for ethanol by 3 odd rupees is an icing on the cake.
The key policy that is thoroughly in need is the revision in MSP to ₹3500 at least, this is no way going to burden the average consumer as shelling out ₹3 to 5 more on sugar is not a huge impact for them, as compared to the benefits that this decision would bring, timely and prompt payments to farmers and sustainability of the mills.
“Also to address the challenge of excess supply of sugar in the country the GOI usually gives export subsidy, which is usually released after a lot of scrutiny and delays, instead they should allow for this excess sugar to be diverted to ethanol so that the cash cycle is quicker and we address the demand that is there for ethanol.
This diversion of excess sugar to Ethanol can be considered as deemed export and the same benefit can be given to the sugar mills that adopt this mechanism.
To address the issue of excess production the GOI should increase the radial distance between the plants from the existing 15 Kms to atlest 35 Kms.” Nirani added.
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