Relenting to pressure, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has agreed to call a second meeting of the committee of ministers to consider the demand of the industry to prepone the state’s cane-crushing season to November 1 from December 1.
Maharashtra cooperation minister Subhash Deshmukh confirmed the development and said the CM has agreed to the ministers’ meet, but its date is likely to be fixed in the next few days.
The committee of ministers had earlier declared December 1 as the date for commencing the state’s crushing season on the shortage of cane availability and prolonged rainfall in Maharashtra. However, Karnataka’s early start to the sugar season of 2016-17 on November 1 ended up causing a furore among farmer organisations and sugar millers.
According to market reports, mills in Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara near the Karnataka border are likely to get permission to begin the season from November 15 because they fear that farmers may end up selling cane to the mills in Karnataka if the season is delayed in Maharashtra.
The Western India Sugar Mills Association (WISMA) has sought November 1 as the date for the start of the season. Normally, Maharashtra’s season begins in mid-October or mid-November after Diwali.
WISMA president BB Thombare said they would be meeting Maharashtra cooperation minister Subash Deshmukh on Saturday to press for an early start to the season.
“Not only is there a cane shortage, but the state is also likely to face labour issues if there is a late start to the season. The labour is likely to migrate to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat in search of work if they are made to wait till December. Moreover, the cane is already matured and is not of top quality. A delay in crushing could lead to a loss in recovery and impact the subsequent rabi season,” he said.
Thombare further said some 15-20 mills in the Marathwada region could be crushing some 50 lakh tonnes of cane this season and the season in Marathwada region is likely to be a short one. Around 155-160 mills are expected to crush cane in the 2016-17 season.
Interestingly, in 2015-16, Maharashtra’s cane season lasted for 117 days and this sugar season may not last for even a 100 days.
In 2008-09, the Maharashtra sugar season had lasted for barely 80 days. This is perhaps the most delayed start for a season and may even surpass the record of 2008-09.
According to Indian Sugar Mills Association, sugarcane acreage in Karnataka has dropped by 19% in 2016-17 compared to previous season. Compared to the cane area of 5.10 lakh hectares in the 2015-16 season, the sugarcane area in 2016-17 is expected to be about 4.15 lakh hectares.
Due to a drought-like situation during the cane plantation period, cane yield and cane production is expected to drop by 5% and 20%, respectively. Sugar production in 2016-17 is estimated at 31.9 lakh tonnes compared to 40.7 lakh tonnes produced in the 2015-16 sugar season.