Our Indian clients, both small and big, are making money with chicken

--Erik Talens, Export Manager, Marel Stork Poultry Processing BV, The Netherlands

Stork Food Systems was acquired by Marel in 2008. The acquisition included Stork PMT, Townsend Further Processing and Stork Gamco, which have been among the most reputable brands in the poultry processing industry for years, renowned for innovation and quality. Since 2008, the company Marelfocusses on the four industries, poultry, further processing, meat and fish. Marel Stork Poultry processing as part of Marel,has been marketing its whole range of products for the poultry processing industry under the brand Stork Poultry Processing. Recently, M. B. Naqvi, Chief Editorial Coordinator, AgriBusiness& Food Industry, met Erik Talens, Export Manager, Marel Stork Poultry Processing, in Holland, and tried to know his views on Indian poultry industry, latest technology, MarelStorkís association with Venkyís, Godrej Tyson and why Marel Stork is not keen to set up its manufacturing facility in India, among other things. Excerpts:

As a leading global brand in poultry processing industry, how does MarelStork view Indian poultry markets in comparison to other countries where it is present?:

For us, India is an important area. We can expect the biggest growth potential in 5-10 years as younger generation prefers to dine outside. And when it comes to prepare chicken or meat, many people do not want to stand in their kitchens and prepare a dinner particularly chicken. They want a processed chicken or they love to eat outside.Even if they cook in their own kitchen it takes half an hour while a fast food joint does the same job in a few minutes. Chicken consumption at restaurants is growing.Food habits of the younger generation are changing. Although 30% people are still vegetarian in India, chicken has the most potential as all non-vegetarian people have no issue with it. So we expect to see good growth in India.

Please tell us about your presence in India. What kind of technology and services do you offer?

We have a Sales and Service unit in Bangalore. We build installations for slaughterhouses for chicken with varying capacity. Currently we have built here plantswith a capacity of 500-4800 chicken per hour. We also have solutions for fish, meat and further processing.

Some of our clients are Venkyís and GodrejTyson .Venkyís is doing a great business. Our other smaller clients are also doing good business.Our agreement with Venkyís is for almost a decade, and it is running smoothly. For GodrejTyson, we built a plant in Bangalore and in Mumbai. Some of our smaller clients are active in Coimbatore and Hyderabad. Suguna is the biggest player in India, but all of our customers are making good money with the chicken.

Price factor is a major thing for a price-conscious country like India. Breeders are not willing to spend a fortune on buying overseas technologies as doing so will impact prices of the products at consumer level which they cannot do. This is the reason local technology suppliers are preferred over overseas ones. What are your views on this?:

Our prices are at par with the leading suppliers of the world, and yes it is a little bit higher than local prices. But Iím convinced that the added value will be much higher than the investmentmade year after year.We are top of the markets. This results in a higher life time and less service so a better ROI. And if Service is required, we have highly skilled technicians making sure the equipment keeps running.For India, we would prefer semi-automated way as it saves on labour cost while keeping the cost of the equipment low. Convincing processorsabout the advantages of technologies is necessary. Mindset will change. But it will take time.

You have put up your own facilities in China, Brazil and other countries, but not in India. Why is this so?

For us, India is a strong growing market but notcomparable with markets we see in Brazil, Russia and even China. We see a lot of potential in the India market and thatís the reason we opened a Sales and Service unit in Bangalore. We want to be close to our customers to give them the support needed and react quickly. We want to meet the processorsat exhibitions and for the future we are looking for show plants and even a kind of Technology Center in India where our customerscan come and see what is possible and what is not possible. It is a kind of demonstration area, a learning hub about poultry and meat processing technology and marketing.

What are the major issues you see in India?

Governmentís regulations are tough here and taxes are high which are not conducive to setting up a processing plant. We are especially interested in semi-automatic facilities where food safety comes as top focus and where hand touching should be lowered to a minimum.

Cold chain and lack of infrastructure are other bottlenecks.

What scope do you see in India in the processed meat sector?

As only 5% chicken is processed here so there is a lot of scope in the segment. Breeders should aggressively process the birds. The government should also promote the processing activities.

Indo-Dutch cooperation is the new buzzword these days. What do you think about this? Will it help both countries?

Although, I do not have sufficient knowledge about other industries, I believe that both the countries can benefit each other in many sectors including agriculture and related segments. India is suffering from the wastage of foodgrain, fruits and vegetables. Holland can provide right technology to India to contain this loss. In India, one third of food items do not reach consumers while in EU the same amount is wasted by the consumers themselves. So food wastage is a global problem and must be tackled to meet the demands of food safety, quality and quantity.

I see a lot of Dutch companies interested in doing business in India which is a good sign. NAFTC and NICCT are also doing a good job. A lot of integration is happening.

What do you think about the Private sector Vs government sector in the poultry sector?

We prefer private sector to deal with as it is still very tough to deal with government sector here due to peculiar rules and regulations. I hope that this will change in future and that they will strengthen each other. It is good that private sector sees the opportunities and is very active in poultry business here.

A lot of focus these days is given on junk food and campaigns are running across countries to teach kids not to eat junk foods. What would you like to say on this matter?

Ready to eat products, which is a trend in many countries is not the same as junk food. As a concerned citizen, I would say it is not healthy to eat it too much but the automation process weíre talking about here for the poultry industry is not direct related to junk food as such. Having fresh products available and even in a later stage of the process, more customized to the local needs in way of saving preparation time, is still a healthy way of living. But even restaurants are seriously focusing on cutting down calories and offering healthy foods. At the enditís up to the consumer what, when en how he will choose to eat.