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With ‘naturally farmed’ pork, start-up Arohan forays into the premium segment

Pratim Ranjan Bose Guwahati | Updated on June 03, 2019 Published on June 03, 2019

With a ₹4-crore turnover in four years, Arohan Foods may not find much reference in the Indian start-up space. But this small company is today a major catalyst in increasing farm income in the North-East.

Arohan’s focus is on processing and marketing of pork meat. Small-scale pig farming is common in the North-East, which is also the largest consumer of pork.

Arohan rolled out its ‘Choice Pork Natural’ brand of sausages and bacon in 40 cities in 20 States, only to realise that the model was unviable.

The North-East may have the largest pig population, but the farming practices are so inefficient that farmers barely make money despite the retail price in Guwahati being 40 per cent higher than in Delhi. Selling this high-cost meat in faraway markets made little business sense.

“The situation forced us to work on the back-end,” said Arindom Hazarika, director of Arohan.

Innovative solution

He was convinced that standard commercial farming practices will not work in the North-East, where there are a large number of small farmers scattered over 8 per cent of India’s landmass.

“Animal husbandry is closely linked with farm practices. Punjab grows maize and corn. This is used by industries for production of animal-feed, which finds easy market in hundreds of large piggeries in the State,” said Hazarika. In contrast, the North-East grows a single crop of rice. Branded pig-feed is available at ₹25 a kg. The feed cost alone is estimated at ₹12,500, against a farm-gate price of ₹13,000.

However, with technical support from the Central Tuber Crop Research Institute, farmers were encouraged to grow sweet potato, tapioca, and colocasia as pig feed, in the idle season.

A portion of the agri-horticultural production was diverted to feed animals.

This was supplemented with water hyacinth, banana stems, etc., which are grown in abundance locally.

“The feed standardised by us is 70 per cent as efficient as the machine-made feed but barely 20 per cent in cost,” said Hazarika.

Livelihood mission

Arohan is now preparing to re-launch its processed products as “naturally farmed”, expecting higher value realisation.

“We will play in the premium category, which is now dominated by imports,” said Hazarika. Arohan is also encouraging farmers to tap the huge demand for raw meat through self-help groups.

One such initiative is under way at Gogamukh in Lakhimpur district in Assam, where small farmers will be brought under an SHG, which will have its own slaughter house and 50 branded outlets at small towns in the district.

Pacts with State govts

The Lakhimpur initiative was undertaken on behalf of the NHPC. Arohan has already entered into agreements with the governments of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh to replicate the movement as part of the livelihood mission.

“There are three major takeaways of the farmer SHG initiative. First, consumers will get quality meat. Tapping the retail market will help improve their earnings. And the model is not dependent on State subsidy,” Hazarika said.

Published on June 03, 2019

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