Agri Business

India will take four years to become self-sufficient in bamboo, says Zed Black

Subramani Ra Mancombu | | Updated on: May 19, 2022

According to a top official, domestic output is far lower than the demand

India will take at least 4-5 years to attain self-sufficiency in bamboo production to meet the needs of the domestic industry, particularly incense ( agarbatti) sticks manufacturers, says a top official of a leading incense stick brand. 

“The National Bamboo Mission was launched only a couple of years ago and it was in 2019 that the Centre encourage domestic planting of bamboo to make up for the imports. It will take 4-5 years for bamboo plants to grow and achieve self-sufficiency,” said Ankit Agrawal, Director, Mysore Deep Perfumery House (MDPH).

MDPH — which is among the top three incense stick manufacturers in the country — markets its products under the brand name Zed Black across the country. Former Indian cricket team capitan MS Dhoni and Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan are its brand ambassadors.

Lack of options

“Currently, 5,000-6,000 tonnes of bamboo are imported every month, while domestic production is hardly 100 tonnes. Our company’s demand for bamboo is 200-300 tonnes a month. We continue to import as there are no other options,” he said.

MDPH sources bamboo locally to some extent from Assam and Tripura taking advantage of the bamboo missions but it depends on Vietnam for importing the primary raw material. 

The firm produces two types of products. One is raw agarbattis that are used for captive purposes and the other is perfumed incense sticks. The raw incense stick is produced by mixing bamboo with a paste of charcoal, joss powder (made by crushing the bark of litsea glutinosa tree) and sawdust mixed with water in a machine. 

Backward integration

“After 2019 when the Centre announced its policy to discourage bamboo imports, we have begun backward integration to produce our own raw incense sticks,” Agrawal said.

MDPH had initially sourced the raw incense sticks till 2009-10 before beginning to import bamboo from Vietnam as raw material availability became a problem. Once the Centre took steps to promote bamboo cultivation, it began to buy bamboo locally to encourage domestic production.

On December 26, 2017, the Centre declassified bamboo as a tree and changed its status to grass. It also amended the 1927 Indian Forest Act and deregulated the bamboo trade, which was earlier regulated by State’s forest departments.

Modernised units in M.P.

As part of its backward integration, MDPH has been investing in setting up modern manufacturing units near Indore in Madhya Pradesh.  It has come up with two new manufacturing units, one at Rampipliya and another at Kshipra village, both near Indore. The greenfield units have added an additional manufacturing space of 5.3 lakh sq ft to the firm’s 7 lakh sq ft area. 

The Ram Pipliya unit of 3.5 lakh sq ft is the world’s largest raw agarbatti manufacturing unit. The Kshipra unit has a manufacturing space of 1.8 lakh sq ft. Both plants will help MDPH which employs about 4,000 people with 80 per of it being women, generate 2,000 additional employment opportunities.

Agrawal said the new units will support expansion plans of Zed Black, which is exported to over 40 countries including the US, Australia, Brazil and Chile, and will cater to changing preferences of Indian consumers. The Ram Pipliya unit will produce raw materials such as raw incense sticks, raw dhoop cones, and raw dhoop sticks.

Growth during Covid

The MDPH official said the incense stick industry, which had been growing 15 per cent annually, witnessed a 30 per cent growth during the Covid pandemic with people staying home and praying more. “Things are getting even now with people beginning to go to the office. The growth could be 12-15 per cent only this year and will continue in the long term since it is used for happy and sad occasions,” Agrawal said. 

To a question, he said backward integration of his firm would not mean it would get into contract farming or planting of bamboo. “It is a different game altogether that needs time and investment. We will tap Assam, Tripura and other States for buying our raw material,” the MDPH official said. 

Though bamboo prices have been ruling “fairly stable”, the rise in container and ocean freight rates is a cause for concern. Prices and supply of raw materials such as essential oils, aroma oils and natural oils were dependent on the weather and crude oil. A major part of these raw materials are bought locally, Agrawal added. 

MDPH was founded in 1992 by Agrawal’s father and uncles and it is a closely held private firm. The official said the company produces over 1,000 products, including varieties of incense sticks, dhoop cones, sticks, etc. 

Published on May 18, 2022
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

You May Also Like

Recommended for you