Processes palm jaggery into value added products for exports and domestic sales. Also manufactures bio reactors
Palm jaggery is nature’s gift to human life. Demand is high but supply is less because palm tree climbers are declining day-by-day and so its trade is losing its’ shine. Observing disheartening circumstances of the industry and people belonging to it, Mrs. Subathra Dhanasingh once a practicing Chartered Accountant and Cost Accountant on her return from USA took the initiative to revive the life of farmers and climbers. “I belong to palm tree climbers’ community and so wanted to do something meaningful for them. I wanted to value add palm jaggery so that they could have a better living because only value addition can lead to more earnings,” she says as the drive to establish Ecobuddy Exports in 2007.
The company is located at Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It manufacturers and supplies organic sweetener, palm sugar, palm sugar powder and, palm jaggery.
Mrs. Subathra returned to India in 2004 and then she invested three years interacting with palm tree growers, climbers, NGOs and traders to understand the trade scenario. “Palm trees are environment-friendly trees as they grow using minimum ground water, control soil erosion and yield healthy products for living beings. They are an asset for us. We have to protect and revive palmyra industry,” she says and adds, “Palmyra tree based products’ future is promising as awareness about its health benefits is increasing but unfortunately climbing the tree is the most difficult task and so the supply of palm jaggery is less. Dates and sap from the tree can be procured only manually when a climber climbs the tree. We tried doing farm mechanization but could not find a solution,” she adds.
Determined to make it a success she made a humble beginning by convincing farmers to supply palm jaggery to the company. “Farmers make jaggery from dates and supply to us. We did try to train them for four years to make pure jaggery but it was not possible. So we then started processing the raw jaggery (full of impurities) into different value added products at our processing plant. We purify the jaggery at our factory without using any chemicals,” says Mrs. Subathra.
There are more than 1000 farmers associated with Ecobuddy Exports for plam jaggery supply. The company’s procurement team visits farmers’ field for buying the jaggery. Farmers are paid money in advance for the jaggery supply. Price is subject to market fluctuations but on an average farmers are paid Rs. 100-150/kg. Payments are made in cash.
When asked about palm jaggery being a seasonal product with low shelf life, she explains, “Peak jaggery supply is from March-May every year. Approximately one farmer supplies 20kg jaggery/day/week. We store it in deep humidifiers at our warehouse and process it as the order comes and manufacture the products. Our purchase supply is limited to three months but we produce and supply products the entire year.” Production capacity of the plant is 30 tonnes/month. “We want to always supply fresh products so we produce against the orders. Lead time depends on order size however usually it is 60 days,” she adds.
Fab India was amongst the initial customers of Ecobuddy Exports. “We made an encouraging start with Fab India and since then there is no looking back. We are consistently supplying palmyra tree based value added products in India and International market,” shares Mrs. Subathra. 70% of annual produce is exported and rest 30% is sold in India. Products are certified as per Indian, American and European standards. “In India we are selling through organic stores under the brand name ‘Ecobuddy’ whereas in the International market we supply in bulk quantity which is then repacked and sold under the buyer company’s brand name,” she adds. Products are mainly exported to US and UK in 20 kg packs. 1 ton is the minimum order quantity for exports while it is 100kg for domestic market.
Mrs. Subathra Dhanasingh is always keen to work in favor of the environment and hence named her company as Ecobuddy Exports. She has recently introduced ‘Bio Reactors’ in her product line about 9 months back. Quoting the new product as revolution to all environment related problems she elaborates, “We are manufacturing bio reactors. These bio-reactors are attached to boiler (run on wood fuel) to reduce the fuel consumption and black smoke emitted by the boilers. The reactors also facilitate using any form of bio mass as fuel in place of wood, thus solving the problems of managing agricultural waste. So far we have successfully installed 15 bio reactors across Tamil Nadu. Our customers are very happy with the savings on fuel consumption. We are successfully using tender coconut waste as fuel through this system.”
The manufacturing technology is certified by Ministry of Renewable Energy (MNRE). 10 bio reactors can be made in one day at the factory. Lead time is 45 days. Bio reactors are customized as per the boiler size and hence the price varies. It costs Rs. 4 lakh/unit for a 1 ton boiler. “Installation is less than 2 days. ROI on bio-reactors is less than 6 months for the buyers. We give warranty of one year. Life of bio reactor is 10 years,” she adds. Presently bio reactors are sold within India but after a year it shall be exported too.
Future plan at Ecobuddy Exports is to continue working for betterment of palm tree climbers and farmers and reach more customers for bio reactor sales. “Bio reactor is a mode to protect environment from deterioration for almost all the industries. It has the potential and we are working to tap it,” concludes Mrs. Subathra Dhanasingh, “We are planning to plant more palmyra trees and encouraging people to take up palm tree climbing profession with pride. Demand is more and we can meet it with only increased a supply. In addition we want our youth to realize palmyra tree climbing can fetch them salary just like any software engineers.”
159, Thiruvalluvar Salai, Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai – 600041, Tamil Nadu, India
Web: http://ecobuddy.in/ , www.waste2energy.in