Sharad Pawar, chairman, Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI) on Saturday said the sugar sector in Maharashtra is in trouble and has lost it’s place as the country’s top producer to Uttar Pradesh (UP). Therefore, a lot needs to be done for Maharashtra to regain the top slot. Speaking at a sugar meet, Pawar said Maharashtra has faced two consecutive years of droughts which has reduced the cane area from 10 lakh hectares to 6.33 lakh hectares in FY17 — a drop of 3.75 lakh hectares. Moreover, the crushing season in the state is only 76 days compared with 138 days in UP, he added. However, salary and fixed costs have risen causing financial difficulties in the sector, he said.
UP, because of its location, has ready markets for sugar in Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi — all of which are captive markets, Pawar remarked. In contrast, Maharashtra has no markets as Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh have their own factories. Maharashtra can sell only in the north east, or Kolkata, or look for exports.
Additionally, UP has a new variety developed by Bakshi Ram — CO 238 — which matures a month early. This increases the sucrose content leading to higher recovery, Pawar said. UP has seen an increase in recovery — 10.82% from 9% in FY12.
Productivity in UP has increased to 73 lakh tonnes compared with 59 lakh tonnes in FY12. Moreover, co-generation costs are high and the government is offering Rs 4 per unit, while the actual unit cost is Rs 5.80 per unit.
He said cane development, use of improved varieties of cane for increased yield, a longer season for improvement are some solutions. He said factories need to set aside funds to get trained professionals on board for cane development. He asked the factories to get serious if Maharashtra has to get back its top slot.