1. Maharashtra govt retreats, says sugar season to start Nov 5

Maharashtra govt retreats, says sugar season to start Nov 5

Govt relents to pressure from mills as well as farmers

By: | Pune | Published: October 20, 2016 6:06 AM
SUGAR-L-REU Subhash Deshmukh, state cooperation minister confirmed the development and said that mills in the state will now commence crushing on November 5. (Source: Reuters)

millers in Maharashtra now have no concerns with regard to the early start to Karnataka’s cane-crushing season. The Maharashtra government on Wednesday decided to prepone the state’s crushing season to November 5 from December 1.

The committee of ministers in Maharashtra that met in Mumbai on Wednesday has decided to prepone the state’s crushing season to November 5.

The meeting was called by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis after pressure from sugar and farmer organisations mounted in the state. The sector had demanded an early start to the season on the fears of losing cane to Karnataka where the season is slated to commence from November 1.

The announcement has been welcomed by almost all sections of the sugar sector. 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.

Subhash Deshmukh, state cooperation minister confirmed the development and said that mills in the state will now commence crushing on November 5.

Sugar commissioner Vipin Sharma said that the Commissionerate will now begin processing applications for crushing.
BB Thombare, chairman, Western India Sugar Mills Association (WISMA) that had sought November 1 as the date to start the season in Maharashtra, welcomed the move. The festival of Diwali will now be sweet in true sense not only for the sugar mills, but also for sugar employees, cane labourers and all sections associated with the sector, he said.

Thombare had expressed concerns over the earlier date (December 1) saying that it would result in shortage of cane as well as labour. A delay in crushing would have also led to a loss in recovery and would have impacted the
subsequent rabi season, he said.

Farmer organisation Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana had also sought an early start to the season on the grounds that mills in Kolhapur and Sangli regions on the border areas of Karnataka would lose cane to Karnataka.

Meanwhile, Shivajirao Nagawade, chairman, Maharashtra State CooperativeSugar Factories Federation ( MSCSFF) welcomed the Wednesday’s decision but pointed out that this will cause a scramble among mills.

“November 15 would have been an ideal date. The decision to commence the season early will now impact the recovery of sugar by 0.2% to 0.3% and this in turn could impact the fair and remunerative price (FRP) payments,” he said.
Mills in Maharashtra still owe R123 crore to farmers in FRP arrears. In addition to the arrears of R123 crore for the 2015-16 season, some of the mills also owe R110 crore to farmers for the 2014-15 season.

According to Nagawade, an early start to the season would mean that depending on cane availability, some of the mills would crush for barely 60 days, some for 80 days and some for 100 days. Only some of the mills in Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli may crush for the entire season,” he said. Usually a sugar season in Maharashtra lasts for 160 days.

Around 155-160 mills are expected to crush cane in the 2016-17 season. In 2015-16, Maharahstra’s cane season lasted for 117 days. This sugar season may not last for even 100 days even lesser than the season of 2008-09 which is a record for Maharashtra. In 2008-09, Maharashtra sugar season lasted for barely 80 days. This is perhaps the most delayed start for a season and may even surpass the record of 2008-09.This year sugarcane production area is 6.33 lakh hectares as against 9.87 lakh hectares last year.

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