Beet sugar output gains ground in Maharashtra; to help boost farmers’ income

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Published: January 29, 2020 12:57:03 AM

Beet is being cultivated on a pilot basis by Rajaram Bapu Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana and Samrath Sahakari Karkhana.

The plant established by VSI at the company has resulted in production of around 25-40 tonne per hectare of beet sugar with a recovery of 12.5-13%, said Shivajirao Deshmukh, director general, VSI.

A pilot project undertaken by the Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI) headed by former union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and Baramati Agro, an agro-based firm owned by his family last year for production of beet sugar, is bearing fruit.

The plant established by VSI at the company has resulted in production of around 25-40 tonne per hectare of beet sugar with a recovery of 12.5-13%, said Shivajirao Deshmukh, director general, VSI.

Baramati Agro, which cultivated beet on 150 acres, has decided to cultivate sugar beet on 200 acres this season. The idea is not to replace cane sugar but supplement the incomes of farmers and provide an added revenue stream for factories in addition to extending the crushing season of the mills by a couple of months.

Maharashtra currently has some 101 cooperative and 87 private sugar factories. Earlier, the cane crushing season usually lasted for over eight months from October to May. Another two mills in Jalna and Sangli have decided to cultivate sugar beet and produce beet sugar,he said.

Rana Sugars of Punjab has been cultivating sugar beet for the past 8 years on 6,500 acres. We have proved that beet which grows in colder climate can be grown here. However there are challenges and any carelessness on the part of the farmer could lead to failure, Deshmukh said.

Purna Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana from Parbhani and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana from Osmanabad have asked for seeds and trials have begun but beet sugar cultivation is still some way off commercial cultivation, he pointed out.

In India, growing of sugar beet was first tried at IISR, Lucknow and at Padegaon in Maharashtra in 1960s. In 1970, irk was initiated under All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on sugar beet. A network project on developing agro-techniques or tropicalised sugar beet in India was formulated by Indian Council of Agricultural

Research (ICAR) and conducted at VSI during 2004-05 to 2007-08 to develop a complete package of best practices for tropicalised sugar beet cultivation.

Accordingly, VSI undertook 100 tonnes per day and 873.6 tonnes of sugar beet was processed. However due to problems of harvesting and transport arrangement and inadequate availability of sugar beet became a hurdle for achieving the desired capacity throughout the season. VSI has recommended that sugar beet cultivation is more profitable than other winter season competitive crops like wheat and sugarcane.

Rohit Pawar of Baramati Agro had earlier stated that since beet is a short-duration five month crop and requires less water, this could ensure that the plant runs for nearly nine months.

He felt this could be useful for sugar mills in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu where capacity utilisation is low and overheads are high because they have a small season. After crushing sugarcane, the mills here can go for beet to improve their capacity utilisation, he pointed out. All that the mills would require is an additional diffuser because cane is crushed and beet is extracted.

The diffuser costs Rs 20-25 crore and the rest of equipment is the same, he said. According to Pawar, this is a concept which is certainly profitable and millers will be able to sell beet sugar if the effort goes well. Sharad Pawar and Deshmukh visited Europe to check if this could be replicated in Maharashtra.

Beet is being cultivated on a pilot basis by Rajaram Bapu Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana and Samrath Sahakari Karkhana.

Brazil is the biggest producer of beet sugar globally. India, Thailand and Australia primarily produce sugar from cane.

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