Both cooperative and private sugar millers want the state government to grant extension for the licence for a year.
Sugar mills and distilleries in Maharashtra, which had started manufacturing hand sanitisers during the lockdown, have sought an extension of the licence to continue manufacturing sanitisers. Both cooperative and private sugar millers want the state government to grant extension for the licence for a year. Sugar mills had realised that production of sanitisers could become a new revenue stream for them.
Normally, these licences are issued by the state excise department, and food and drugs administration on directions from the Centre for the manufacture of hand sanitisers for five years but the sugar mills were given a three-month provisional licence which will expire on June 30, 2020.
Jugalkishore Mantri, joint commissioner of Maharashtra FDA, and drug controller of Maharashtra, said that the department was awaiting instructions from the state excise office with regard to the extension. “These licences were granted by the government in view of the pandemic situation and therefore the period of the licence was for three months. Moreover, these licences were issued online without any conducting any checks. Usually, setting up a plant requires permissions from several departments. Mills are free to approach the department for establishing new plants as per procedure.”
The Maharashtra government had granted as many as 252 licences for the production of hand sanitisers in March. Of these, sugar mills and distilleries were given 108 licences and the average production capacity is for 2.09 crore litres per month, he said. “Maharashtra produced some 1.11 crore litres per month.” Currently, the state has an excess of 27 lakh litres.
“The Union minister of consumer affairs had sought our view regarding exports and the department had mentioned that the demand for sanitisers would go up with lifting of the lockdown and therefore, the government should take the domestic need into account as well,” Mantri said.
Jayprakash Dandegaonkar, chairman, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation, said the federation plans to approach state chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and FDA minister Rajendra Shingne to extend the licence.
“Sugar mills from Maharashtra had responded to the call given by the government and had diversified their distilleries into the manufacture of hand sanitisers. The government should now grant an extension of one year to the mills. The mills, meanwhile, are willing to set up separate manufacturing plants and production lines as per norms,” Dandegaonkar said. Production of sanitisers could become a new revenue stream for sugar mills, he said.
BB Thombare, president, Western India Sugar Mills Association, said that licences issued to mills mentioned that the special permission had been granted to stop the spread of Covid pandemic and the licence shall remain valid from March 28, 2020, to June 30, 2020, and they should extend the licence for sugar mills for another year, he said.
Now that the lockdown is easing, and industries and other institutions are opening up, the demand for sanitisers will go up.
He warns that there could be a shortage of sanitisers in the market if the production is not extended.
Sanjay Khatal, MD, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation, said the mills would approach Maharashtra FDA minister Rajendra Shingne to allow mills to continue production for another year. “Sugar mills in Maharashtra have been in financial distress. Yet, they responded to the call of the government and manufactured alcohol-based sanitisers. Since the stock with mills is still lying unsold (at least 40,000 litres) mills should be given permission to export,” he said.
Although there was a ban on sanitiser export, the Centre has allowed export of bulk sanitisers (without any pumping system) a couple of days ago and there is demand coming from the Gulf and African countries, Khatal said.
Sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh have 30 lakh litres of excess sanitiser production and are looking at exporting these.