At least 50 % of the sugar mills in Maharashtra are sick, Subhash Deshmukh, the state’s minister for cooperation, marketing and textiles, said on Wednesday. Maharashtra is likely to have a short season in 2016-17 as there is little cane and mills may run for barely 100-120 days, he said.
The minister, who was in Pune for a review meet with sugar factories and top officials of the Maharashtra sugar commisisonerate, said that while it would be difficult to give out numbers, several mills were on the point of liquidation and the government is examining all possible measures to give a new lease of life to such mills. Maharashtra has around 177 mills that crushed cane last season.
“Some of the mills are on the point of liquidation. Some of the mills are to be auctioned and one has to see the impact on the lives of farmers living in the nearby areas. Some of the mills have additional land which could be sold to repay the loans. Some of the mills could be given on lease,” the minister said.
The government will look at all possible measures to revive these mills, he said. According to Shivajirao Nagawade, chairman, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation, mills in the state had incurred losses of about R900 crore for the season of 2014-14.
According to Deshmukh, barring Solapur, the state has seen good rains this year. Although the Ujjani dam in Solapur region is 60% full, one still has to examine ways to conserve water, he said, hinting that drip irrigation could soon become mandatory for mills in the state. Deshmukh cited the example of one factory in Maharashtra that has incurred debts of around R152 crore and has around 117 acres of land. Several attempts to auction the land has fetched little response, he said.
All the mills in Maharashtra may come under drip irrigation from the 2019. Until then, drip irrigation will be brought in phases, he said adding that at present, around 20-25% of the mills are under drip irrigation.
“Water has become such a major issue. There is one line of thought that says cane is a water guzzler and there is another line of thought which says that cane needs to be encouraged since it is a major source of revenue for the state and is a major income source for farmers. Farmers are assured of payment,” he said.
The minister said that BJP leader Prithviraj Deshmukh had begun a drip irrigation scheme on 2,000 acres of land that was inaugurated by Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis. The CM has said that good factories should implement such schemes and encourage ways to conserve water. The state government is of the view that mills need to conserve water and therefore a meeting was called with all factories to get suggestions on these schemes, he said.