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On Track To Pump In $240 Million Into India: Simon George, Cargill India

He also talks of the potentials policy measures have created for the food processing industry in the country

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Cargill India, part of the global food giant the Cargill group, has been shifting its focus to sustainable growth. In an exclusive interview with Prabodh Krishna of BW Businessworld, Cargill India’s newly appointed president, Simon George, divulges plans of investing $240 million in India. He also talks of the potentials policy measures have created for the food processing industry in the country. 

Excerpts:

Cargill India focused on corn processing last year. Which crop do you target focussing on now?
See, Cargill is one of  the largest originators and marketers of food and feed grains in India. Our customers include leading food businesses, flour millers, feed millers, distillers, brewers and starch manufacturers.  Currently we trade in corn, wheat, soybean, millet and barley. Of these, we process corn to manufacture glucose and dextrose syrups as well as malto dextrin powder for the global food and beverage industry and wheat to produce atta (flour) under our brand, NatureFresh. Of course, we are always exploring opportunities to expand our footprint in this business to provide best-in-class solutions to customers who depend on us.

Your group has faced multiple challenges in the Indian market, but have surmounted them. What worked in your favour?
We are uniquely positioned in the food and agriculture industry to connect farmers to the market, all thanks to our presence across the supply chain. In its 30 years in India, Cargill has successfully navigated challenges and complexities in the food and agriculture industries and has grown its footprint in multiple sectors that include refined oils, food ingredients, grain and oilseeds, cotton, animal nutrition, industrial specialties, and trade-structured finance. Today we employ more than 3,500 employees in India and generate revenues of about $1.2 billion.
But an important contributor to our strength in India comes from our continuous focus on innovation to meet the needs of our customers. I must say we are the pioneer in the fortification of oils with vitamins.

Also, we are now further expanding our portfolio to include health and wellness products such as NatureFresh Acti heart, Gemini Rice Bran oil, and wheat derivatives under the NatureFresh brand umbrella. Additionally we are also working with the government on addressing food security and food safety in India and we have implemented several programmes across the country closely with them.

The Indian government’s continuous efforts to uplift the food processing sector has attracted huge investments. Where do you see yourself  in this race? 
We are very much aligned with the government in its efforts to further develop the food processing sector and improve farming profitability, which appears to be a major concern. India presents strong growth opportunities for us and we are committed to the market and to continue investing in the country. Just last year, we announced that we will be investing $240 million here in the next three to five years.

Will you share even tentative numbers on what Cargill plans to invest in India in the coming years? 
We are on track to invest $240 million in the country over the next three to five years. Our investments are aligned with growing customer needs across the market, be it food or feed businesses. Some of our investments will also help provide a market to Indian farmers, helping them succeed in becoming more profitable.

In the past year, we have already invested more than $50 million across our businesses. We acquired a fish feed plant in Andhra Pradesh, invested in two corn silos in Karnataka and we are building a bio-industrial plant in Pune to address the industrial and feed markets. We are also expanding our presence in the western region, where we have plans to invest $20 million to start an animal nutrition facility in Rajasthan.

 What are your views on farm-to-fork connectivity? 
We believe fork-to-farm is a better approach. Farmers should produce what the market needs, to become more profitable and the fork-to-farm approach will enable that.

Our presence across the supply chain enables us to connect farmers to the market so they are able to benefit better from demand opportunities. We help them adopt sustainable farming practices, diversify their farms to include high-value crops, and innovate their farming systems so they can become more successful and stable.

We also invest in infrastructure to strengthen the supply chain. For example, we have set up corn silos next to our plant in Davangere, Karnataka to reduce wastage and shorten the supply chain, which will help prevent deterioration of  crop and help farmers sell their produce at a better price.
We strongly believe that collaboration is the key to strengthen the food supply chain and we continue to work closely with the public sector and our partners to build a more resilient food system.

The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sampada Scheme has Budgetary allocations of Rs 1,313 crore for 2018-19. Do you support a partnership model for the scheme?   
This scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters can definitely benefit from participation of the private sector. The industry can help by bringing in project management capabilities as well as technical know-how in creating efficient agri-infrastructure, modernising processing and decreasing food waste.  

While this is a good scheme, there is a need for connecting rural markets with various other reforms from the government, including APMCs and the e-NAM platform. Together these will lead to greater efficiency across the supply chain and help in creating opportunities to increase remuneration for farmers.  


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