Triveni Engineering & Industries Ltd (TEIL), a diversified integrated business conglomerate and a large sugar manufacturer in India, will increase its sugarcane crushing capacity to 63,000 tonnes per day (TCD) during the current fiscal.

According to TEIL’s vice-president and managing director Tarun Sawhney, the company, which also manufactures high-speed gears and gearboxes besides being a key player in water and wastewater management business, will come up with two more distilleries to produce ethanol. 

Board approval

“We will be enhancing our capacity. Right now, it is at 61,000 TCD. (Last week) the board approved 2,000 TCD expansion of our unit at Sabitgarh (in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr district), which will take the overall crushing capacity of Triveni up to 63,000 TCD,” he said.

The Triveni board approved ₹735 crore capital expenditure. 90 per cent of the expenditure will be done during the current fiscal. Of the ₹735 crore planned expenditure, ₹100 crore would be spent on the power transmission business. The balance ₹625 crore will be split with ₹460 crore towards distilleries and the rest towards sugar. 

The company, founded in 1932, is trying to take advantage of the Uttar Pradesh government’s policies towards setting up ethanol manufacturing facilities. “So, we have four distilleries. Two more are coming up. From 660 KLPD (kilo litres per day) to 1,110 KLPD. It is absolutely vital. The other thing, of course, is the introduction of multi-feed so that we are not compromising on the ethanol blending programme,” Sawhney said. 

Multi-feed distilleries

About 65 per cent of distilleries of Triveni — which has 6 co-generation plants to produce power from bagasse, a residue of sugarcane crushing — will be multi-feed in the near future. Non-multifeed ones will be converted to ones that can accommodate other grain options. During the 2022-23 fiscal, 25 per cent of the ethanol sold by TEIL, which operates 104.5 MW grid connected cogeneration capacity, was produced from grain, he said. 

Triveni, which produces EC grade premium quality multi-grade crystal sugar, raw, refined and pharmaceutical sugar, has come up with three more initiatives apart from its expansion plan at Sabitgarh plant. “One is to further efficiency improvement allowing us to operate at nearly 63,000 TCD levels. I think next year or the coming season (October 2023-September 2024) will really see us operating at that high benchmark,” Sawhney said.

The second aspect is conversion of more plants to refineries and addition of more pharmaceutical grade sugar capacity. This will enhance the company’s profitability.  “The third one is adding infrastructure. We need more storage facilities, better warehousing and technologies. That’s a very important facet,” he said, adding that it would be done through digital technology.

5-year plans

TEIL,  whose sugar business made up ₹4361.95 crore the 2022-23 fiscal of total ₹5616.8 crore, has come up with 5-year plans with the company halfway through its first 5-year plan. “The coming season is when we will see the huge dividend because it takes time to scale up, then you see the benefit and then those cascading benefits just take you on an accelerated trajectory,” the vice-president and MD of the company said.

Digital transformation is the bedrock to Triveni’s transformation and it includes software and apps which allow for better, more real-time, accurate and practical solutions.  

The company, which owns the “Shagun” brand sugar, works with 3.5 lakh farmers and digital technology is critical for them. The company will be using geospatial imaging and drones not just for estimating yield but also for finding out pests and diseases, he said. 

A portion of its digital technology initiative will be to change the sugarcane varieties, used by farmers from whom it sources cane. “We are looking for over the next couple of years. We will be changing not just to one variety but 2-3 varieties plus testing another 5 varieties,” he said.

El Nino impact

The initiative is not just about cane and varieties development for the next 2-3 years but over a period of 7-10 years. The entire perspective is one of medium and longer terms, Sawhney said. 

On the impact of El Nino, which is forecast to set in later this year, he said India would be exporting sugar and meeting ethanol requirements even in the “worst case”. 

Pointing out at changing weather patterns, Sawhney said only better agronomic practices such as wider spacing, deeper planting, better plant monitoring and quality irrigation can help improve yield besides application of the right amount of pesticides and insecticides at the right time. 

To a question, he said the Indian sugar sector has overcome the five-year cycle that typically affects the industry. “I think that cycle has disappeared because of the fantastic, aggressive and forward-looking ethanol blending programme by the Centre. It is about understanding that farmers’ incomes will only increase through yield increases,” the company’s vice-president and managing director said. 

 All “massive increase” in farm incomes have come through yield increase and “that is something we have experienced with wonder varieties across the nation” over the last few years, he said.

India’s significance

On India becoming a key supplier in the global sugar market, Sawhney said the country is the “real bellwether for global prices”. 

“If India does not export sugar next year, global prices could go up quite substantially. India’s role in the global economy has never been more important as it has been over the last couple of years and as it will be over the next few years,” he said.

India has painstakingly created markets for its sugar and it must take part in it. “Our withdrawal from the market would be a big stepback in my opinion. To be honest, I do see a deficit that is going to keep prices firm internationally,” Sawhney said.  

On the other hand, consumption in India is slow and the industry is not witnessing the 2-3 per cent offtake it witnessed in the pre-Covid era, said the vice-president and managing director of Triveni, which is equipped with latest technological equipment and analytical labs.