Even as reports are rife in the market that India may possibly import sugar against the backdrop of a likely reduction in production in the sugar season of 2016-17, the figures released by the Maharashtra sugar commissionerate reveal a different picture for the state.
Maharashtra may end up with a closing stock of 11 lakh tonne at the end of the 2016-17 season, despite a shortfall in production estimated for the season, and therefore the state would still continue to be in a comfortable position, Vipin Sharma, Maharashtra sugar commissioner, said. According to the data released after the Cabinet ministers’ meet in Mumbai, the state will begin the season with an opening stock of 32.7 lakh tonne. The the total production for the season of 2016-17 is likely to touch 50.28 lakh tonne (against 84.50 lakh tonne last year) at a recovery rate of 11.3%, while 72 lakh tonne (against 75.5 lakh tonne last year) of sugar is expected to be consumed, which leaves a closing balance of 11 lakh tonne with the state, Sharma pointed out. Around 155-160 mills are expected to crush cane in the 2016-17 season, which is slated to begin on December 1.
The monthly consumption of sugar in the state comes to some 6 lakh tonne and even if the season begins on December 1, as has been decided in the meeting of the Cabinet ministers, the state will have enough sugar on hand even during the festive season and may not have the need to import, the commissioner said, adding that a decision regarding imports rests with the Centre and he could not speak for the stock position of other states. There has been speculation in the market that the country may have to have to import sugar to tide over a possible shortage in stocks and keep a check on rising prices. The quantity is expected to be around 16 lakh tonne, according to market reports.
According to the commissioner, even if one takes the ceiling on the stocks on mills at 37% as decided by the Centre, Maharashtra mills are well within the prescribed limits. As on September 30, 2016, the mills were supposed to have stocks of some 41.63 lakh tonne under the 37% criteria prescribed by the Centre and in comparison, only 33.6 lakh tonne remain with the millers, he said.
By October, mills are to have 24% of sugar stocks and still, mills are within the prescribed limits at 33.6 lakh tonnes, he said. The state government has approached the Centre with a request for a two-month extension on the directive to reduce the sugar stocks of mills to 37% by the end of September.
In 2015-16, around 81.4 lakh tonne was sold at an average of some 6.5 lakh tonne per month, he said. Of the 184 mills, some 44 mills have excess stock and have missed the September 30 deadline, he said. Around 16 factories have more than 50% stock. In September alone, some 8.5 lakh tonne of sugar was sold, he said.
Interestingly, in 2015-16, the season lasted for 117 days and this sugar season may not last for even a 100 days, even less than the season of 2008-09, which is a record for Maharashtra, he said. In 2008-09, the 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, Sharma said.