Symbiotic Foods


Tribal farmers in the northeast of India have increased their income by 3 to 4 times, thanks to Symbiotic Foods Pvt. Ltd. (SFPL) which set up a social business in the pig rearing value chain. Pig rearing is a traditional source of income for the farmers. However, usually they do not earn a fair price due to low quality and an unfair system. SFPL tries to positively influence this by introducing improved piglets and by providing feeds and veterinary services to farmers. It also provides a buy back arrangement.


Pig keeping is an integral way of life for many tribal people in the northeast of India; over a quarter of all Indian pigs are found in this region. Pig production in this region is invariably a small-scale, backyard but marketed-oriented business. It is practiced mainly by farmers to generate income and to fulfil socio-cultural and traditional obligations. Despite being small-scale, the production contributes significantly to the livelihood of the majority of pig rearing households. The income from pig sales meets essential household and farming expenses, and provides some financial independence for women. Traders and retailers reported that the demand for pigs and fresh pork increased significantly over the last five years causing a 20% increase in the price of pork. In addition, traders and retailers are confident that sales of fresh pork will continue to grow as a result of the rising demand.


The business opportunity in the market is that there is no availability of disease free, well vaccinated and scientifically produced quality piglets. Although there are few scientific governments breeding farms in the region, they cannot fulfil the (increasing) demand. Hence there is a waiting list to get quality piglets from these farms. Also, the traders and middlemen often purchase the fattener pigs from the farmers paying a lump sum amount without any proper weighing system. Because of this, most of the farmers do not get a fair price for their pigs.


SFPL started its own breeding farm in April 2014 with 25 pigs. At this farm quality disease-free piglets are scientifically produced. The company managed to produce 720 piglets in 2015. The piglets are raised at the farm until 2 months of age, after which they are sold for € 33 to the farmers, mainly in the tribal Boro community. In this raising time, the farmers can buy feed and medicine from SFPL. It also provides veterinary services and trainings. Farmers will raise the pigs for 7-8 months in which they gain an average live weight of 80-100 kilograms, which otherwise take 12-13 months to attain similar weight using low quality piglets. Also, there is less mortality amongst the pigs. By providing a buy-back arrangement, farmers are secured of income which provides them a sustainable livelihood. SFPL buys the pigs back at a fair price based on a live weight basis. On an average, a farmer makes € 65 profit per pig more, compared to other farmers. A farmer can earn € 520 annually through this activity, which means a huge social impact for tribal farmers. The animals are reared in natural conditions. They are given enough space for moving around and they are kept in groups in a clean environment. Also, they are provided with hygienic feed and drinking water.


With the co-entrepreneurship of, an enterprise of ICCO Cooperation, the projected number of piglets is targeted at 6,000 over a period of 5 years compared to 720 in 2015. This will increase the revenues of SFPL and raise the income level of farmers. Approximately 3,000 farmers of the Boro (Tribal) Community will benefit from this. can also help with introducing new breeding techniques and technological advancements.


The purpose of the is to have a meaningful impact on the whole pig rearing value chain. ICCO has already an investment in a pork processing company that is active in North East India. SFPL will strengthen our impact in this value chain as we see huge synergies for both companies to cooperate and ensure that the final consumer receives safer pig meat products with a clear traceability through the whole food chain.


Manoj Kumar Basumatary is a Mathematics graduate from Stephen’s college in Delhi. He worked in a senior position in the largest public sector bank, State Bank of India (SBI), for 15 years. He has received many awards, certificates and recognition during his tenure in the bank. In 2013 he resigned his job to start his own social business. Through his company SFPL, his dream is to provide a sustainable income to thousands of tribal women farmers and create a world class rural enterprise. Khanindra Kalita is an Engineering graduate from Assam Engineering College, Guwahati. After completing his studies, he has shifted to the development sector. Kalita worked with various non-governmental organisations such as Pradan and Saral Services. In one of his previous jobs at the company SeSTA, he designed a low cost pig shed for small and marginal farmers. The model was adopted by the College of Veterinary Sciences, Assam Agricultural University. Kalita is nowadays also working as a consultant with VisionSpring in a project in Bangladesh.