Aurora Magazine

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"Milk has the potential to be a $30 billion industry if it is organised"

Published in Nov-Dec 2022

Interview with Awais Bin Nasim, Managing Director, Tetra Pak Pakistan

ZEENAT CHAUDHARY: When was Tetra Pak established in Pakistan?
AWAIS BIN NASIM: Tetra Pak, headquartered in Sweden, is one of three companies owned by the Tetra Laval Group. About 40 years ago, Syed Babar Ali brought it to Pakistan as a joint venture with Packages Limited. Today, our customers include most of the major local dairy and juice producers like FrieslandCampina, Haleeb Foods, Nestlé, Shakarganj and Shezan International.

ZC: What material is used to make Tetra Pak’s packaging?
ABN: The main material (70% of it) used in Tetra Pak packaging is paperboard (which is made from wood pulp and provides stability and smoothness to the printing surface), aluminium foil (protects against oxygen and light to maintain the nutritional value and flavours of the contents in ambient temperatures) and polyethene (protects against moisture and enables the paperboard to stick to the aluminium foil). All of the raw material is imported from suppliers in Sweden and Brazil that are Forest Stewardship Council certified (a non-profit that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests).

ZC: Are Tetra Pak’s carton components recyclable?
ABN: We are able to recycle 100% of our carton components, including aluminium and plastic. Seventy percent of the packaging is made from long, strong recyclable fibres. In Pakistan, we work with Green Earth Recycling to recycle 42% of our annual production (27,000 tons of cartons) into furniture, waste bins, playground swings and other items. We are even turning the cartons into corrugated roofing for use in parking lots, animal sheds and stadiums, as they also lower the temperature by two to three degrees. Globally, we operate school feeding programmes and try to provide underprivileged children with free milk every day. This activity does not exist in Pakistan, but we are working with the government to find a mechanism to do so.

ZC: What makes Tetra Pak’s packaging, for milk in particular, stand out?
ABN: Tetra Pak packaging consists of six layers. The idea is to be able to package milk so that it can be made available for longer and to a larger number of people while remaining fresh, nutritious and free from adulteration and without using chemicals or preservatives. We provide our clients with Ultra High Temperature (UHT) treatment equipment, which they use at their plants to destroy the micro-organisms present in raw milk, while maintaining the milk’s nutritional integrity, making the end product suitable for distribution and consumption.

ZC: Are milk and juices packaged at Tetra Pak plants?
ABN: All products are packed at our customers’ plants. After manufacturing, we send them the packaging and we supply milk producers with UHT equipment.

ZC: What does UHT treatment entail?
ABN: When raw milk is produced, it needs to be preserved by killing most of the bacteria – this is done by flash boiling it at approximately 139 degrees centigrade for two to three seconds. The remaining bacteria become inactive/ dormant because the packaging prevents light and air from affecting the product, resulting in a shelf life of between six and eight months. Once a carton is opened, allowing light and air to enter, the bacteria become active, hence the need for refrigeration. UHT-treated milk requires a cold chain management process (once the milk is produced, it must immediately be stored at four degrees centigrade, otherwise the bacteria start multiplying). We are the only player in Pakistan to have a cold chain process.

ZC: Doesn’t that result in a lot of milk being wasted nationwide?
ABN: Yes. Pakistan is among the top four largest milk producers in the world, but over 26% of this milk is wasted, due to storage issues, even before it reaches commercial entities. We also have the lowest milk yields in the world – we produce about seven to eight litres of milk per day per animal, whereas the world average is about 39 litres per day. We are far behind the optimum milk production level required.

ZC: What are the reasons for the high wastage and low yield?
ABN: There are a lot of contributing factors to wastage. For one, inefficient farming practices and poor farming infrastructure. Small-scale farmers especially are unaware that milk does not have a shelf life unless chilled immediately. Some dairy companies have set up milk collection centres where farmers can bring their milk for basic processing, chilling and transportation, but they need a method to preserve the milk during the travel time from the farm to the collection centre. Sometimes farmers add ice to the milk, causing adulteration. A major change is required in terms of infrastructure to preserve the quality of the milk supplied by farmers. There is also the need for government regulatory frameworks and policies. For example, India has a minimum pasteurisation law (milk must be heated at a certain temperature before it is sold for consumption) and this has resulted in the country’s milk producers converting to septic cardboard packaging, due to its shelf life and durability. Pakistan is probably the only country among the top 10 or 15 milk producers in the world which does not have a minimum pasteurisation law. The Punjab Government passed a minimum pasteurisation law in 2018, whereby loose milk would no longer be available by 2023, but nothing has been done so far. The low milk yield is due to an inbred gene pool of livestock, which results in lower production of milk (along with higher mortality rates and hereditary abnormalities). Moreover, the quality of the feed/ fodder is either low-quality or too costly. A lot of the time, farmers resort to letting their livestock free graze, resulting in them consuming toxins and other harmful substances.

ZC: Have the recent floods aggravated the situation?
ABN: Almost 33% of the population has been impacted and about 800,000 animals have been lost, which will have a significant impact. Loose milk prices have increased from Rs 120 and 130 per kilo to Rs 180 and 190 in Karachi. We are slightly lucky that the areas affected were not major dairy areas for encashment. It would have been more catastrophic if central or north Punjab were hit. The overall recovery will be difficult, but we can take this as an opportunity to start from scratch and improve the dairy/ livestock sector. This can be done by importing animals of certain breeds, investing in artificial insemination and teaching good farming practices.

ZC: What is the solution in terms of best farming practices?
ABN: Ten years ago, Tetra Pak conducted a CSR activity called ‘Dairy Hub’, where we introduced best farming practices to dairy farmers and trained them on the basic hygiene an animal requires, how to keep them hydrated, and how to clean their spaces. With these simple changes, we were able to improve their milk yields by 20 to 25%. However, a company can only give a certain level of support. It is a question of awareness at a national level. Similar to how awareness and information about wearing masks and getting vaccinated was disseminated during Covid-19, that is the scale of the intervention that is required. The milk industry has the potential to be a $30 billion industry if it is organised.

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