Cane crop at risk as rains flood UP

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 20 2014, 07:27am hrs
As much as 6,00,000 hectares of farm land, including a portion of cane areas, has been inundated across 1,500 villages in Uttar Pradesh, according to senior state government officials. This has not just threatened sugar production but spelt further trouble for farmers already constrained by sugar mills' decision not to crush cane in the marketing year starting October and waiting for payment worth thousands of crores for cane supplies earlier this season.

Although state officials said it was too early to gauge the impact of the floods on sugarcane, Kisan Jagriti Manch president Sudhir Panwar said the crop is at high risk, especially due to waterlogging. UP is the largest sugarcane-growing state and accounted for 27% of the country's sugar production in the current marketing year.

So far, 49 people have died in the state because of floods, with Bahraich district reporting the maximum number of deaths at 22. Ironically, heavy showers in some districts also raised fears about uneven distribution of rainfall. Despite the latest downpour, the deficit in Uttar Pradesh was as high as 32% in the eastern regions and 51% in the western parts. So after poor monsoon rain until end-July hit sowing, heavy downpours in a few districts raised concerns about the crop.

Last month, the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) forecast sugar output in Uttar Pradesh to drop in the 2014-15 marketing year starting October due to a 9% decline in cane areas, although output in the country would still rise 4% to 25.30 million tonne due to higher output in Maharashtra.

ISMA director-general Abinash Verma ruled out immediate downward revision of production forecast, saying the specific impact of the floods on the crop in UP is yet to be gauged. He said he didn't "see much impact as of now" as the crop is mature enough to withstand some amount of water. "Had the floods happened some time earlier, when the crop was at an early stage of growth, the impact would have been much larger," he said.

UP is estimated to have produced 6.5 million tonne of sugar in 2013-14, while Maharashtra produced 7.7 million tonne, thanks to higher recovery rate in the western state.