Carew & Company is the only government distillery in the country under Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation (BSFIC). The 80-year-old diversified sugar mill was nationalized in 1973. This leading alcoholic beverage producing factory of the county produces about 4 million bottles of foreign liquor and 2.6 million liters of Bengali liquor annually.
As of June 2020, Carew & Company has current and noncurrent assets of over BDT 1,100 (1134.87) crore. Amongst the 15 companies in the state sugar industry, only Carew & Company has been making a profit for the last few years. In the 2020-21 fiscal year alone, Carew has made a profit of BDT 195 crore by selling liquor.
History of Carew and Company Ltd.
The journey of Carew & Company began in the early nineteenth century. According to the Dhaka Tribune, in 1805 a British industrialist named John Maxwell set up the first distillery of the subcontinent in Kanpur, British India. As the British presence in the region increased, so did the business of Maxwell’s distilleries. To assist in meeting this additional demand, he hired a Sugarcane and Spirit Specialist, Robert Russell Carew. Later, seeing the profits of this business in India, Robert Carew bought the distillery along with two partners.
Robert’s distillery was attacked during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Carew’s younger brother, who was working as a manager, was killed by the sepoys. Later, when the British government took control of everything, Robert returned to the distillery business. With the help of the British Army, Robert re-established his distillery. A joint stock company was established in 1897, first in Asansol, then in Katni, and later in 1938, a branch of Robert’s Carew Distillery was established in Darshana.
The purpose of this Darshana Carew & Company (East Bengal) was to produce sugar and LPG spirit by threshing sugarcane. The Sugar Mill’s machinery and equipment were brought from Glasgow’s M / S Blairs Ltd.
After the partition of the country in 1947, when the British left the region, the government of Pakistan took control of the organization. From 1947-1971 it was called Carew & Company (Pakistan) Limited. After 1971, the name of the company was changed to Carew & Company (Bangladesh) Limited. After the independence of the country, the government of Bangladesh nationalized it along with other institutions. In 1973 Carew & Co. (Bangladesh) Ltd covering an area of about 3,562 acres, including a playing field, processing factory, labor office, school, residential area, a mosque, and medical facilities, was nationalized.
Carew has the largest area among the sugar industries of the country. Built on more than 3,000 acres, the company cultivates sugarcane in about 2,340 acres. Carew also earns by producing other crops on the rest of the land. Other than the sugarcane season it cultivates other crops during the off season. The country’s sugar industry employs more than 11,000 (11,462) employees in 15 mills, of which more than 1,100 (1,102) work in Carew.
Since after a few years of nationalization, most of the factories in the sugar industry have been continuously operating at loss. As a result the government has to subsidize these companies by hundreds of crores of taka every year. According to TBS sources, since 1938-2021, this government owned company made a profit only 4 times in these 83 years. Which means, Carew & Company has been running at a loss for 79 years. Although it made a profit from other units, Carew had an overall loss due to the sugar unit.
The main product of the sugar mill is sugar, which is produced through sugarcane cultivated all over the country. According to the Dhaka Tribune, the Darshana sugar mill has the capacity to process at least 1,150 tons of sugarcane a day. According to the company’s annual report, in 2019-2020 the company was targeted to thresh 1 lakh 7 thousand metric tons of sugarcane but has managed to thresh a little more than 1 lakh 3 thousand (1,03,038.13) metric tons. Which is 96 (96.30) percent of the company’s target during threshing season. This threshing season lasts for about 3 months of the year.
In the fiscal year of 2019-2020, more than 5 thousand (5,142) metric tons of sugar was produced from sugarcane, of which about 4,683 (4,682.33) metric tons were in stock (unsold). Also, the lack of raw materials resulted in not completing the capacity of Carew Sugar Mill, which increased the production cost. The price of sugar produced by Carew is almost double that of sugar produced from a private company. As a result, most of the sugar produced by the government and in Carew remained unsold. However, besides sugar Carew produces other products with the 3 byproducts that are found after extracting sugar from sugarcane.
Sugarcane’s 3 by-products are molasses, bagasse, and pressmade or silt. Carew collects by-products from other units in the sugar industry and uses them as the raw material for its diverse product portfolio. As a result, even though the sugar remains unsold, the remnants of the sugarcane goes to another factory of Carew. For example, in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, more than 4,000 metric tons (4,139) tons of molasses were produced , all of which were used in the Carew factory.
Molasses is the main ingredient in Carew’s liquor production. According to Prothom Alo, to make liquor, molasses is first filled in a tank and for 72 hours and left for fermentation, which is then converted into steam by heating and then the vapor is cooled into liquid. This liquid is purified alcohol. From there Country Spirit, Rectified Spirit, Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA), Deenchard Spirit, Absolute Alcohol are produced through proper process.
Carew’s Yellow Label Malted Whiskey and Gold Ribbon Gin are made from Extra Neutral Alcohol. Fine Brandy, Cherry Brandy, Imperial Whiskey, Orange Crackau and Czarina Vodka are made from Rectified Spirits. And Rosa Rum and Old Rum are made with country spirit. These 9 liquors are known as the ‘foreign liquors’ of Carew. In the fiscal year of 2019-2020, the company produced more than 9 (9.01) million liters of foreign liquor, which is 3,000 liters more than the previous year.
In addition, absolute alcohol obtained from molasses is used in airplane cleaning and science laboratories. Homoeo-grade spirit is derived from rectified spirit, which is one of the ingredients in homeopathic medicine. Denatured spirit is also produced. It is used in furniture varnish. In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, Carew’s factory produced about 49 (48.66) million liters of spirits and alcohol. After the production of spirits from molasses, there is a spent wash, with which pressmade and some microorganisms are mixed to produce organic fertilizer. Which Carew uses in cultivation of sugarcane and other crops in their own farm. They are also planning to commercially sell this fertilizer.
According to the Sugar Industry’s 2019-2020 Fiscal Year Annual Report, Carew produces 1806 metric tons of biogas. In addition, during the Corona pandemic Carew began producing hand sanitizers, in the fiscal year of 2019-2020 the factory produced more than 57,000 (56,164) liters of sanitizer. In addition, they produced more than 20,000 (20,700) liters of vinegar this fiscal year.
According to the latest annual report of Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation (BSFIC), in 2015-16 fiscal year, Carew’s profit was around Tk 4 (3.80) crore which increased to around Tk 5 (4.81) crore in the next fiscal year. In the 2018-19 fiscal year, Carew made a profit of over Tk 7 (7.21) crore, of which Carew earned over Tk 2 (2,23,00,000) crore by cultivating various crops on 447 acres of land. In the last 2019-20 fiscal year, the company’s profit was more than Tk 9 (9.34) crore, while the total loss in the state sugar industry was more than Tk 7,800 crore (7,810.61).
During the Corona epidemic in 2020, Carew made a profit of more than 1 (1.02) crore taka by producing and selling hand sanitizers. In the fiscal year 2020-2021, the profit from hand sanitizer, vinegar and organic fertilizer factories is more than 29 (29.19) crore taka. In addition, Carew & Company is also paying VAT to the government. In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, Carew’s distillery unit paid VAT of BDT 65 crore (64.6 crore).
According to TBS sources, in the fiscal year 2019-2020, about 45,000 liters of liquor was imported by paying customs, but the total amount of liquor sold was 6 lakh liters. In other words, despite being a Muslim majority country, there is a great demand for liquor in Bangladesh. This demand is increasing mainly due to the large number of foreign expats working in Bangladesh, foreigners coming to work on mega projects, foreign investors, indigenous people and some marginal population. Therefore, in addition to meeting the domestic demand, if the liquor produced by Carew can be exported, there is a possibility of generating more revenue for the company.