In a first for India, 10,000 farmers in Punjab are experimenting with sugarbeet over 10,000 acres spread across three districts; harvest of hope for a sugarcane substitute is due in March
Punjab is on the road to producing sugar in a new way. For the first time in the state, 10,000 acres of land have been earmarked for the cultivation of sugarbeet, a crop that produces over a fifth of the world’s sugar, but whose cultivation is concentrated almost entirely in Europe, the US and China.
The crop has been sown over 5,000 acres, and the area under cultivation is likely to double in the next couple of weeks. Around 10,000 farmers of Amritsar, Kapurthala and Jalandhar districts are involved in this large experiment, success for which has been predicted to hold enormous promise, including that of a new “sugar revolution”.
The trial is being carried out by the private Rana Sugars Ltd, based in Buttar Seviyan village, 48 km from Amritsar, with cooperation from Punjab’s agriculture and cane departments, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, and a Europe-based company.
Rana Gurjit Singh, Congress MLA from Kapurthala and owner of the mill, said, “We hope to bring around 12,000 acres under sugarbeet this year. The mill had signed an agreement with Belgium-based SESVanderHave, the global market leader in sugarbeet seeds business, for the purchase of seeds for three years. To encourage farmers to get out of the circle of only wheat, the mill has provided a 100 per cent subsidy on seeds, amounting Rs 3,500 per acre. Planting and harvesting will be done by specially designed machines.”
No sugar is currently produced from sugarbeet in India. MLA Rana Gurjit Singh said trials have been on since 2007, and have proved successful in Punjab.
Amrik Singh, general manager of the mill, said, “We have sown sugarbeet over 5,000 acres. We started sowing in mid-October in Amritsar, Kapurthala and Jalandhar districts, and an equal area will be covered by mid-December. This is a five-month crop and we will start getting the harvest by March, and it will continue till May-end.”
According to Punjab cane commissioner Dr Ranjit Singh, the five-month crop will be a good replacement for wheat with farmers able to earn around Rs 10,000 more per acre. “The mill offers assured buyback under a contract farming agreement on a committed price,” he said.
Jagtar Singh Brar of Mehma Sarja village in Bathinda district is one of the farmers to