For the first time in many years, Maharashtra sugar season has been delayed and is slated to begin from December 1. The decision was taken at a cabinet committee headed by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. Maharashtra’s sugar season usually commences on October 1 or in the second fortnight of October. This time the season has been delayed by one-and-a-half months.
Although the season has been delayed due to the shortage of cane availability and prolonged rainfall in the state, millers can now heave a sigh of relief as the Maharashtra government has decided to send a letter to the Centre seeking a two-month extension on the Centre’s directives to reduce the sugar stocks of mills to 37% by the end of September.
Cooperative millers had approached the Bombay High Court with a writ petition challenging the Centre’s directives but had failed to get interim relief.
According to Mahesh Pathak, principle secretary, food and civil supplies, data gathered from most mills revealed that they have sold sugar but many of them have been facing transportation issues. “When our comments were sought by the government, we recommended a two month extension for these mills and therefore the issue of seizure of stocks does not arise,” he told FE.
At the meeting held in Mumbai, a review of the sugarcane production and preparations for the season of 2016-17 was taken.
Chief minister Fadnavis said that due to drought in the last four years, cane production had been hit. This year sugarcane production area is 6.33 lakh hectares as against 9.87 lakh hectares last year.
Sugarcane production is expected to be 493 lakh metric tonne as against 743 lakh tonne. The area under cane production has come down drastically in Marathwada, Solapur and Ahmednagar districts. These estimates were released by the state government at the meeting chaired by chief minister with his cabinet colleagues and representatives of the sugar industry.
Around 140 sugar mills, 70 co-operative and 70 private ones, are expected to participate in the coming crushing season against 177 mills consisting of 99 co-operative and 78 private mills in 2015-16.
A proposal was also considered to tap neighbouring state Karnataka to delay the state’s crushing season to December 1 so that both the states share the crushing date. If Karnataka’s crushing season begins on November 15, Maharashtra’s cooperation minister should take a decision on crushing dates, it was felt.
Fadnavis told industry representatives that he had asked the commissioner of Sugar to give online approvals to the sugar industry. He also assured the industry that his government would pursue their demand for restructuring loans with the union finance ministry.
All administrative approvals for sugar factories should be made online from May 1, 2017. Loan restructuring proposals of the sugar mills should be sent to the finance ministry, he said.
He mooted a proposal to bring sugarcane production area under drip-irrigation. A committee under cooperation minister Subhash Deshmukh will prepare a policy to restart the closed sugar cooperative mills on partnership basis, he said.
The Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation appealed to the state government to waive of 3% sugarcane purchase tax, restructure loans with three years moratorium and seven year repayment schedule, and provide 75% subsidy for drip irrigation.