First Bonsucro certification in Pakistan

2nd June 2021

Two sugar mills in Pakistan, Layyah Sugar Mill and Almoiz Sugar Mills Unit2,  are the first in the country to achieve Bonsucro certification – a verifiable commitment to social, environmental and economic sustainability in sugar production. The achievement covers 1,223.26 hectares of land across 82 different small-scale farms. The certification comes through collaboration between Bonsucro, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the two mills to boost sustainable farming practices.

Some of the world’s biggest sugarcane producing countries rely on smallholder farmers for most of their volumes including Thailand, India and Pakistan.   Bonsucro defines a smallholder as a farmer with less than 25 hectares of land. In Pakistan, the average is two hectares, less than a hectare in India and up to 25 hectares in Mexico.

To widen access to certification, Bonsucro launched the Production Standard for Smallholder Farmers in 2018. The Standard is based on our rigorous Production Standard but has been adapted to facilitate collecting data on a much smaller scale meaning the cost for implementation is lower and is therefore more inclusive.To adhere to this standard, farmers must comply with national/regional legislations. They must also provide all workers with a contract stating their working hours and provide appropriate personal protective equipment. It is also essential for smallholder farmers to keep a diary to record data on production, including the volume of agrochemicals used, water use, number of workers, farm size, and yields. In addition to data collection, they must have a health and safety plan, and environmental impact management plan and a method for workers to record grievances.

Bonsucro certification takes time, planning and investment, and implementing the Standard across 82 different farms is a big task. Mr. Nauman Khan, CEO of Almoiz Industries Limited said, “As a leading agri-business group, Almoiz has a proud history of firsts – Pakistan’s first high-pressure boilers, first dual-feedstock sugar mill, first falling film evaporators. But of all our progressive innovations, Bonsucro certification stands apart as our proudest accomplishment. Bonsucro certification is not an engineering feat, nor is it a narrow financial investment – instead, it epitomizes Almoiz’s commitment to our communities, to our 40,000 farmers and to a sustainable sugar ecosystem. In this era of extreme climate stress, especially in South Asia, there is perhaps no greater imperative than Bonsucro’s vision of sustainable, resilient agricultural communities and supply chains.”

A collaborative approach

To develop a sustainable and responsible sugarcane production system, Bonsucro ollaborated with IFC, Thal Industries (Layyah Sugar Mills) and Almoiz Industries (Almoiz Sugar Mills Unit2) on a project on sugarcane supply chain in Pakistan.  Bonsucro trained key staff at the mills and conducted a gap at a sample of four smallholder farms. From the assessment, we identified and recommended improvements that would help the farmers meet the criteria in the Bonsucro calculator.

Following the training in 2019, we participated in monthly follow up calls with the mills and IFC. We used these sessions to support the mills’ progress. IFC also appointed two partners to the project, including an agronomist in charge of bringing in new agricultural practices.

Bonsucro also provided reports to support the sustainability journey, including a certification action plan, smallholder compliance scoring report, a cost benefit methodology and Chain of Custody implementation guidelines.

Rana Karadsheh-Haddad, Regional Director , Manufacturing, Agribusiness, & Services Asia & Pacific, IFC said, “This IFC-Bonsucro-Almoiz collaboration has practically demonstrated that implementing good agricultural practices along the entire value chain of an input-intensive, predominately smallholder crop like sugarcane, is possible even under the socio-economic conditions in Pakistan. This market first certification will not only encourage other sugar industry players working with smallholder suppliers in Pakistan and elsewhere to initiate their own sustainability campaigns, but will also show a demonstrated example to other agro-sectors where smallholdinger face barriers adopting good agricultural practices”.

Changes made

Due to lack of awareness, most smallholder farmers didn’t know about labour and Environmental and Social laws, with many seeing these practices as a hindrance to work efficiency. The mills invested in capacity building operations for their field extension officers to address this.

Prior to the project, very little information and documentation was available at farm level. For instance, land and crop management weren’t documented by farmers. However, with technical support from IFC, the mills developed a digital solution to capture the necessary information which accelerated the ability to keep a farm diary and achieve the certification; during the project, absence of documentation had made working with farmers difficult, and this straight forward solution alleviated that.

A fruitful initiative

Almost two years to the day since the Bonsucro team was in Pakistan to deliver training, Layyah Sugar Mills and Almoiz Sugar Mills Unit2 have achieved certification against the Bonsucro Production Standard, Smallholder Standard, and the Chain of Custody Standard. They have boosted sustainability in the country and demonstrated to the local sector that certification is possible.

As more brands seek to highlight their sustainability credentials and source sugarcane responsibly, Bonsucro certification can offer a competitive commercial edge.

Mr. Nauman Khan went on to say, “Our Bonsucro journey has been an incredible – and incredibly rewarding – learning experience. It may not have come about but for the passionate IFC and Bonsucro teams that sought us out, introduced us to the Bonsucro approach, invested with us, and guided and supported us every step of the way. It is now my hope that Almoiz’s example inspires and motivates others, here in Pakistan and elsewhere, to embark on their own sustainability journey.”

Bonsucro continues to engage with sugar producers across Pakistan to help to address sustainability challenges and encourage greater uptake of certified sugarcane production and trade. If you are working with sugarcane producers in Pakistan and would like to collaborate, please get in touch with our Director for Asia Pacific, Rick Lyu.