Expecting a bumper crop, Maharashtra is all set to commence the cane-crushing season of 2020-21 from October 15.
Sugar mills are still struggling to pay cane arrears of nearly Rs 16,000 crore, out of which the maximum dues are in Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.
Expecting a bumper crop, Maharashtra is all set to commence the cane-crushing season of 2020-21 from October 15. The area under cultivation is expected to increase 29% to 10.66 lakh hectare for the sugar year 2020-21, according to the estimates prepared by the Maharashtra Sugar Commissionerate. The area was 8.22 lakh hectare in the previous year. The sugar year runs from October to September.
Shekhar Gaikwad, Maharashtra sugar commissioner, said the area under cultivation has gone up due to good rains. Sugarcane available for crushing is around 815.50 lakh tonne and the total production is expected to touch 92.15 lakh tonne. Last year, 545 lakh tonne was crushed to produce 60 lakh tonne. Around 187 sugar mills are expected to participate in crushing this season.
Last year, the sugar production in the state came down due to lower acreage, diversion of cane fodder and crop losses due to floods. Every year, most of the mills start the process of procuring and crushing sugarcane around Diwali. This year, the season will begin early because of the possibility of excess cane, Gaikwad said.
Productivity is also expected to increase by 5-10 tonne per hectare due to good monsoons. Gaikwad said sugar recovery rates are also expected to rise and the productivity is likely to go up to 85 tonne/per hectare. Although the sugarcane production is expected to be 906 lakh tonne, the actual cane available for crushing with the mills would be 815.50 lakh tonne.
Gaikwad said three sugar mills have set up Covid centres for cane cutters. The factories have set up a 25-bed facility in case of need. However, none of these beds have actually been occupied by patients, he added. Every season, around 6-10 lakh workers participate in the crushing operations during the cane season, which continues for over 120 days. Maharashtra has over 14 lakh workers, many of whom travel to other states.