19th March 2020
M/S Vijayanagar Sugar Private Limited is the latest mill in India to achieve Bonsucro certification. The mill, which is in the south west Indian state of Karnataka, has worked with 100 farmers to enable them to achieve certification under the Bonsucro Smallholder Production Standard. The company’s commitment to achieving Bonsucro certification has been driven by its desire to mainstream sustainable sugarcane production and good agricultural practices in its region. Vijayanagar Sugar also wanted to bring the farmers supplying the mill along on the sustainability journey.
India is the second largest producer of sugar in the world, and uses about 4,800 000 ha of land to cultivate sugarcane. This is especially remarkable considering India’s sugarcane sector relies on more than six million smallholder farmers. Typically, an Indian farmer’s sugarcane land is about a quarter of a hectare and yields an average of 70 tonnes of cane per hectare.
We spoke to Vijayanagar Sugar’s Director of Operations, Mr B Sivarami Reddy, about the process the mill undertook to become certified and how the company ensured that smallholders were included in the process.
The certification journey
“We chose to become certified in the hope of continuing our contribution to the generation of best practice in sugarcane, and to the sustainable development of our region” Mr Reddy explained. As an added benefit to this decision, Vijayanagar Sugar found that using the Bonsucro Standards and Calculator gave the mill the opportunity to focus on improving efficiency in its factory and field operations.
Once the decision was made to pursue Bonsucro certification, the mill undertook a gap analysis against the Standard. “We identified some environmental and social impacts, fertiliser use efficiency, water use efficiency in the field and factory performance in the Mill which we needed to improve. We made an action plan with the help of Pragya Consultancy to reach the Standard’s criteria” says Mr Reddy.
Due to the traditionally small size of sugarcane farms in India, growers rarely have environmental management plans or health and safety plans in place. Both of these plans are requirements under the Bonsucro Smallholder Production Standards. As a result, Vijayanagar Sugar worked closely with Bonsucro and Peterson Consulting to train the Mill’s extension services and growers on developing and implementing these plans.
Mr Reddy shared that the support of these key partners was valuable in the mill’s certification journey: “We would like to express our sincere thanks to Mrs Ritu Baruah, Bonsucro’s Regional Coordinator for India and Peterson Consulting who gave training to staff and growers regarding environmental, and health and safety plans. Pragya Consulting who gave training to staff regarding the Bonsucro Standards. A special thanks to Control Union, which supported the Mill throughout the process of certification.”
In addition to improving and maintaining and its sustainability initiatives and monitoring systems, Vijayanagar Sugar is planning to next expand their certification to include more smallholder farmers that supply the mill to improve the growers’ competitiveness. The company hopes that certification will enable it to access new markets.
“Congratulations Vijayanagar! The commitment of the senior management and dedication of a small team at Vijayanagar Sugar is an outstanding example to learn from. They participated in all the Bonsucro training programs, put into practice the learnings, discussed the challenges, worked towards solutions and their efforts have yielded results.”
– Ritu Barah, Bonsucro’s Regional Coordinator in India