Produced by: Taybele Piven, Director of Latin American Operations for WDM Group
Interviewee: Bernardo Chamorro, General Manager of Ingenio Monte Rosa
Sugar Competitiveness in Nicaragua
Nicaraguan sugar factory Ingenio Monte Rosa has intensified and diversified its operations in the country, creating much-needed added value for their business. Some of these developments are:
- Production efficiency:
Ingenio Monte Rosa is recognized for their competitiveness in costs, adding value to their products in an industry characterized by low margins and market variations.
- Investments in parallel businesses:
The company has developed other related businesses through investments, such as the cogeneration of energy for the plant’s use and the sale of residual power to the country, obtaining not only savings but also subsidiary income. Additionally, they are investing in the factory with the implementation of modern processes.
"We are a self-sufficient and innovative company, which is a differentiator and a competitive advantage because it enables us to utilize our assets," says Chamorro.
- Culture of Improvements.
From business management to product innovation.
In addition to the significant percentage of sugar distributed domestically, their export activities have increased their profitability in recent years thanks to free trade agreements with foreign countries and partnerships in the sector.
Countries such as the United States, Mexico and Chile have been strategic allies of Nicaragua. The country has also increased its international presence with the European Union and Taiwan in recent years, given the free trade agreement with Asia.
Following major investments of more than $40 million, the company is consolidating its sugar milling capacity and reaching 16 thousand metric tons per day in the harvest that will begin this November.
Their industrial processes are now 80 percent automatic and managed through digital panels; however, they are looking into reaching an automation of 100 percent.
Another transformation is the expansion of their mechanized harvest of green sugarcane (cane that isn’t cut by hand and mechanically harvested), a technique that has strengthened their production from 30 to 70 percent.
Mechanized harvest of green sugarcane benefits:
- Soil conservation, as the residue remains in the field.
- Fresher products, as they are delivered more quickly to the sugar cane mill.
- Increased power generation due to cane residues found in leaves.
- Training program abroad.
To promote the best cutting techniques, field leaders are transferred to the company’s research institute in Guatemala and trained in specialized methods.
- Occupational safety and preventive health.
Monte Rosa has invested in proper mechanics for the prevention of accidents and the implementation of the tools needed for a safe working environment. In addition, 40 monitoring health specialists ensure that all workers comply with safety and health plans such as water ingestion, a balanced and authorized meal designed by nutritionists and proper breaks.
The mechanization of activities in Ingenio Monte Rosa has benefited their final product; proof of this is the production and commercialization of a special sugar called ICUMSA 150.
They have introduced precision farming with GPS, which enables agricultural work at any time of the day thanks to geo-localization. The tractors automatically read coordinates, providing greater efficiency to the agricultural process.
Monte Rosa has a nursery where they analyze varieties in order to find the best match. In collaboration with Cengicaña (Centro Guatemalteco de Investigación y Capacitación de la Caña de Azúcar), an institution in Guatemala, they study adaptability to soil, climate and environmental conditions.
"This automation allows us to standardize our processes, leading to less waste. All these investments in technology and implemented improvements over the years have provided us with many benefits for the future," says Chamorro.
More than Responsibility
Ingenio Monte Rosa has the OHSAS certification for occupational health and safety; this is one of many assets the company has acquired as part of their responsible activities. Another example is their social development department, which interacts with 50 communities in the surrounding areas to develop strategic plans that will improve the quality of life of the population.
"We want to go further," says Chamorro, regarding environmental protection. The sugar company complies with all of the local legislation requirements and licenses to operate. In addition, they hired a world-renowned firm that is measuring Monte Rosa’s impact in the area.
The Pantaleon Foundation develops programs to improve health and education in communities. For example, they opened two schools in Nicaragua that served more than 600 children and provided classes of high international standards to ensure quality. The foundation also supports child development centers with children from birth to five years old and where female workers can leave their children during working hours to receive education, motivation and food.
"We have very good interaction and open communication; we receive complaints or questions and take actions that will benefit the community," he adds.
Rather than providing products, these suppliers—or strategic allies—of Ingenio Monte Rosa deliver progress with the provision of new technologies and specialized training on the latest sector updates. Given that new equipment is usually somewhat complex, suppliers provide customized training to operators taught by professionals.
"The supplier who knows us, who has worked with us for years, that is always aware of our operation and suggests new technologies is a partner to us, and that relationship is a win-win," says Chamorro.
Pantaleon Group (where Ingenio Monte Rosa is a subsidiary) seeks to develop its operations both organically and through acquisitions. Chamorro says, "We want to produce more sugar, bring the sugar mill to grind 18 thousand metric tons and be the largest generator of clean energy."
In the future, they hope to expand their sustainable businesses as part of their corporate responsibility and climate change in the Nicaraguan industry.
Among their new business is the construction of a distillery with a capacity of 300 thousand liters, investments in their delivery network and plans to increase their energy generation from 30 to 50 megawatts per hour over the next three years.
"We continue to focus on improving efficiency, productivity and reducing our costs to be more competitive and have continuous long-term development," says Bernardo Chamorro, General Manager of Ingenio Monte Rosa.
Ingenio Monterosa - Editorial in FDF World Magazine: Page 140
Ingenio Monterosa - Profile in Spanish