The next sugar season in Maharashtra could prove to be a challenging one with a bumper crop in the offing and a huge amount of cane to crush, Sharad Pawar, former agriculture minister and chairman, Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI) said on Tuesday. He urged sugar factories to plan the season well in advance to avoid issues. “If factories are not prepared for the season, then the next cane crushing season could continue till May and June and this could affect recovery levels of cane and impact productivity as well,” he said. He added, “The next cane season not only needs to be commence early but factories will need to coordinate among themselves to distribute and share cane in manner that does not effect recovery levels.” Pawar was speaking at the 41st Annual General Meeting of the Vasantdada Sugar Institute ( VSI), a major research based institute in the state. Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis was scheduled to attend the meeting but attended Gujarat chief minister’s oath taking ceremony instead. This is the probably the first time when not a single major government dignitary or official attend the VSI meet.
Pawar also sounded out sugar factories to be prepared for the future since several meetings with Centre for financial assistance demands for the sugar sector did not yield any results. ” In the past the government has come to the aid of the sugar sector on several occasions. However, on recent occasions, the response has been to run the sector like a business that makes profit and loss. The meaning is clear. We are on our own,” he said. In addition to challenges within the country, sugar factories will now have to be prepared for competition from overseas markets, Pawar outlined. The International Sugar Organisation has made it clear that if India wishes to export sugar to other countries, it should be prepared to allow sugar imports as well. Pawar said that at present, the domestic rates are lesser than international rates and therefore there is less scope for imports but in the next season, this cannot be ruled out.
Later Harshavardhan Patil, former cooperation minister of Maharashtra said that the CM will be meeting the representatives of the sugar sector in the first week of January to discuss issues related to the transportation costs, implementation of the Rangarajan Committee recommendations among others. Sanjay Khatal, MD, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation (MSCSFF) said that the industry is seeking a rise in import duties to discourage imports. “Sugar prices are falling and have fallen by Rs 500 per quintal. Accordingly valuations have also dropped and banks are now offering Rs 1,850 as the cane payment advance.