Even as confusion prevails over the exact date of commencement of Maharashtra’s cane crushing season, around 159 sugar factories are learnt to have submitted proposals to the state sugar commissionerate seeking crushing licence for the 2016-17 sugar season.
These include 89 cooperative factories and 77 private mills in the state. Last year, around 177 factories had participated in crushing operations, which included 99 cooperatives and 78 private mills. The sugar commissionerate has invited mills to apply for crushing licences.
Earlier, sugar commissioner Vipin Sharma had said that around 155-160 mills were expected to participate in the crushing operation. This time, the cane area has reduced to 6.33 lakh hectares from 9.87 lakh hectares in the previous season and some 445 lakh tonnes of cane is expected to be crushed in order to produce 50.28 lakh tonnes of sugar at a recovery rate of 11.3%. Last season, around 742 .90 lakh tonnes of cane were crushed to produce 84.50 lakh tonnes of sugar.
After declaring December 1 as the formal date for the commencement of crushing operation in the state, 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 advance the crushing season to November 1.
Maharashtra’s highest area under cane was 10.54 lakh hectare in 2014-15, when the state had produced 105.14 lakh tonne sugar, it’s highest ever. Some 15-20 mills in 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.
According to senior officials, the commissionerate has received some 13-14 applications seeking the advancement of the season. Farmers’ organisation Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana has sought November 1 as the start of the season and the Western India Sugar Mills Association is also holding the same view.
Interestingly, in 2015-16, Maharahstra’s cane season lasted for 117 days and this sugar season may not last for even 100 days or lesser than the season of 2008-09, which is a record for the state.