Sugar fed charts ways for mills to get competitive

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi, Oct 2 | Updated: Oct 3 2007, 08:52am hrs
Tell farmers to grow sugar beet and sweet sorghum for cost-effective production of sugar. This is the word of wisdom from the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories (NFCSF) Ltd, the apex body of cooperative sugar mills.

The federation, which has drawn up a long-term perspective plan, has noted that very little efforts have been made to develop cane with high sugar content. The viable alternative would be to encourage farmers to grow sugar beet and sweet sorghum, which has better yield and high sugar recovery. These crops require lesser water as compared to canes.

The NFCSF also suggested that to minimise the cost of cane cultivation, farmers should be advised to use drip irrigation systems and also resort to ring plantation, tissue culture, application of bio-fertilisers and pest control, inter-cropping and timely substitution of seed to ensure healthy crops for high yield of sugar per hectare. Sugar mills have captive area of 15-km radius from where it can source cane from farmers and advise them on cultivation.

The NFCSF study compared the Indian situation with that in Brazil and noted that the sugar production cost in the Latin American country was about 55% of the world average as compared with 94% in India. The average cane prices in Brazil was 50% of the cane prices in India.

Admitting that it was not possible to reduce the cane prices due to socio-political reasons, the study suggested cultivation of alternate crops with high sugar content and technological upgrade of mills for reducing the high conversion cost.

It also suggested that mills go for co-products like ethanol production from molasses and from sugarcane juice (in times of surplus cane production), power cogeneration from bagasse, selling of bagasse to paper industries.

It also recommended adaptation of latest technology to process high-quality refined sugar for selling at a premium price in the global market.