ITC is aiming to increase its annual pulpwood production to 5 million tonne (MT) from the current level of 3.5 MT in the next four years, as harvesting of trees grown in Odisha and Chhattisgarh under its agroforestry programme will commence soon.
Of the pulpwood production supported by ITC, around half is being used as raw material at its Bhadrachalam paper manufacturing plant in Telangana. Currently, the company uses around 1.8 MT of pulpwood annually for paper manufacturing. ITC, however, supports eucalyptus plantation under its social forestry initiative, which generates 3.5 MT of pulpwood annually.
The company still sources a major chunk of its wood requirement from Bhadrachalam and other adjacent districts. Since the production in these regions has reached a saturation point, it expanded its social forestry programme in Malkangiri and Jaypore districts (Odisha) and Bastar, Bijapur, Dantewada and Sukma districts (Chhattisgarh) a few years ago.
All these districts are located around 200 km from ITC’s Bhadrachalam paper manufacturing plant.
“In the next four years, around 30% of our wood requirement would be sourced from Odisha and Chhattisgarh,” Vadiraj Kulkarni, divisional chief executive, paperboard and speciality papers business, ITC told FE.
Around 18,000 farmers are associated with the company for growing wood which is used as key raw material in the paper industry. Since the launch of the social and farm forestry programme around two decades ago, ITC has stated that 0.18 million farmers have benefited from the initiative.
Around Rs 400 crore has been spent by the company for the promotion of the social forestry programme.
Under the social forestry model where farmers grow eucalyptus on their land, ITC supports the farmers in providing subsidised sapling, capacity building and training taking up social forestry programmes, while it does not bind the farmers to sell the wood to them. “They are free to sell the wood to other paper manufacturers,” he said. Besides, several state governments also support the programme generating additional livelihood options for those who engaged in rainfed farming.
According to a company’s note, overall, ITC’s afforestation initiative has greened more than 0.39 million hectare of degraded land in 19 districts of nine states in the country for more than a decade.
With the plantation of 1.62 billion saplings, the afforestation program powers ITC’s goal of sequestering four times the CO2 it emits through its business operations.
The Indian paper industry, estimated at `70,000 crore, gets its key raw material – wood pulp — through agro and farm forestry efforts with local communities. An estimated 1.2 million hectare is under social forestry initiatives, enabling the supply of wood pulp to key manufacturers including ITC, JK Papers, Ballarpur Industries, Star Paper and West Coast Paper Mills.