Maharashtra’s sugar output for the 2017-18 season is likely to touch 72 lakh tonne, according to top officials of the Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation (MSCSFF). According to the officials, around 725 lakh tonne of cane should be available for crushing for the 2017-18 season, which is likely to result in a production of 72 lakh tonne at an average recovery rate of 11.24%. This data has been gathered by the federation from several mills and these are the primary estimates for the season.
Concerns are being expressed in the sugar sector that the heat wave conditions across the state over the past few days may impact recovery rates but the officials were confident that there would not be much impact. The India Meteorological Department has forecast to normal rainfall in 2017.
In the current season, Uttar Pradesh has overtaken Maharashtra as India’s leading sugar producer. Sugar mill owners in Maharashtra had earlier expressed confidence of regaining the top position as the country’s largest sugar producer in the sugar 2017-18 season. Maharashtra’s cane area for the upcoming season is around 8.63 lakh hectares as against 6.33 lakh hectares in the previous season. Millers say that in the next season, the state is likely to produce a good crop and it will regain its top position.
The Western India Sugar Mills Association had also forecast the output in the state to be around 70 lakh tonne for the season on the grounds that farmers had raised area under cane for the season because of good rainfall. The state’s sugar output had fallen more than half at 41.86 lakh tonne in 2016-17 in comparison to the previous season when it was 84.15 lakh tonne. The production in 2016-17 was the lowest in a decade due to lower availability of sugarcane following two consecutive drought years. About 150 sugar mills crushed 372 lakh tonne of sugarcane during 2016-17, less than half of 743 lakh tonne crushed in the previous year.
Last year, the number of sugar mills in operation came down from 177 as 27 mills could not operate due to cane unavailability. The last operating sugar mill in Maharashtra closed its operations on April 9. The sugar mills from Marathwada region had closed almost two months ago, owing to non-availability of sugarcane
Different sugar rates for retail, commercial
The government of Maharashtra is considering levying different rates for sugar for consumer and commercial use. A proposal to this effect has been sent to agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh. Confirming this development, Maharashtra minister for cooperation, Subhash Deshmukh, said that a decision to this effect was taken at the meeting held a couple of days ago where this issue was discussed in detail. Out of country’s total consumption, 65% of the sugar is used for commercial purposes for making sweets, ice creams, confectioneries and cold drinks. The remaining 30-35% is used for individual consumer use. According to Deshmukh, if cane production is hit, it directly impacts sugar production, which in turn affects sugar prices.
“As a result, the mismatch in demand and supply impacts sugar prices. The government is then forced to intervene keeping consumer interests in mind. If the rates exceed `40 per kg, the government has to import sugar to keep prices stable,” he said. Deshmukh pointed out sugar meant for domestic consumer use is very less as as compared to sugar for commercial use and traders end up benefiting from the rates.
According to the minister, the sugar sector has been going through some tough times in the past few years. “Sometimes, there is bumper production and otherwise the production is hit, impacting sugar prices. The export import policies also directly impact the rates. This volatility impacts both the farmers and the sugar sector and at times, the government has to bail out the sector. If different rates are proposed for consumer and commercial use, consumers will find it easier on their pockets. The government can consider the Public Distribution System for consumer use,” he said.