With the new sugar season expected to begin by the middle of next month, sugar mills in Maharashtra still find themselves struggling to pay cane dues to farmers. Varied figures of mills opting for the Centre’s soft loan scheme of Rs 6000 crore are emerging with government officials claiming that atleast 50 proposals have been cleared by the banks and disbursals happening in only 20 cases.
According to top federation officials only 30 factories from the state have been cleared for loans and nearly half a dozen disbursals have been made till date. According to the State Sugar Commissioner Vipin Sharma, around 150 factories out of the 175 mills in the state had applied for the ‘50% cane dues certificates’. There have been disbursals in at least 20 cases and this could be the tune of R500 crore, he said. Maharashtra’s share in the soft loan is in the range of Rs 1850 crore.
Jayprakash Dandegaonkar, vice chairman, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation says around 140 mills had filed applications for the loan and disbursals have taken place in 6- cases. Thirty mills have been cleared for the loans, he told FE. Cane arrears in Maharashtra currrently stand at Rs 2850 crore.
Confusion, however, prevails over the start of the new season with millers preparing for an early season in light of the drought conditions in the state. “A decision on the crushing licences is expected only after the meeting of the cabinet which is slated to be held at the end of the month. Mills however are preparing to tentatively begin crushing by October 15,” he said. This year could pose a problem for several mills since water is required for cane crushing and therefore some mills are likely to be given permission to begin crushing early, he pointed out. Mills have time till September 30 to apply for crushing licences.
Earlier estimates by the Sugar Commissionerate had stated that around 800 lakh tonnes would be crushed in the 2015-16 seasonwith 85-90 lakh tonnes of sugar expected to be produced. However, the officials are now reluctant to release any estimates because of the current rain position.
Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) has projected about 28 million tonnes of sugar production for the season 2015-16, which is about 3 lakh tons less than last year. It is also estimated to have about an opening stock of about 1 million tonne on October 1, 2015. There could be some downward revision in the sugar production estimate, when ISMA comes out with its first advance estimate of sugar production based on satellite images by the end of September, 2015.