Nearly 50 sugar mills in Maharashtra may not crush sugarcane this season

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Published: August 27, 2019 2:27:20 AM

When contacted, Maharashtra Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said that the picture will become clear when the Commissionerate takes stock of the number of factories that apply for crushing licences for the season.

The state’s sugar production was set to fall from last year’s 107.21 lakh tonne to 64 lakh tonne.

With cane growing districts in Maharashtra reporting losses due to floods, as many as 50 sugar mills in the state are unlikely to crush cane for the 2019-20 season due to lack of cane availability.

For the sugar crushing season of 2018-19, which commenced on October 20 last, about 952.11 lakh tonne of sugarcane was crushed and 107 lakh tonne of sugar was produced by 195 factories. Of these, 102 factories were from the cooperative sector and 96 from the private sector. From the three districts, about 7.93 lakh acre of sugarcane was planted, which led to 301 lakh tonne of the crop being crushed and 36 lakh tonne production of the sweetener.

While industry body Western India Sugar Mills Association (WISMA) stated that the state’s sugar production is likely to drop down to 52-55 lakh tonne for the sugar season of 2019-20, others felt that the state’s production could be affected to the tune of 35%. This year, the area under cane had reduced to 8.43 lakh hectare due to drought conditions. Maharashtra was expected to produce 64 lakh tonne of sugar as against a record production of 107 lakh tonne. WISMA has further lowered estimates to 52-55 lakh tonne of sugar for 2019-20. The officials expect that the crushing period will be reduced from 160 days to 130 days due to less availability of cane during the drought conditions and nearly 100 days with the floods.

BB Thombare, president, WISMA, pointed out that nearly 35 mills from Marathwada region, that have been reeling under the effect of a drought, and 15-20 mills in Solapur region may not be able to crush cane in the coming season. Industry sources revealed that even 100 factories may not be able to crush for the entire season and several factories are not willing to come forward and announce that they may not be able to crush due to political pressure.

As against the 11.43 lakh hectare of cane that the state had reported this year, the mills were to crush only over 8.43 lakh hectare of crop. The state’s sugar production was set to fall from last year’s 107.21 lakh tonne to 64 lakh tonne. These figures were expected to be further revised as the cane growing districts of Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur reported losses due to floods. The floods have damaged crop over 4.09 lakh hectare with Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur reporting around 2.16 lakh hectare, of which 60% was under the cane crop. Around 70,000 hectare of cane is estimated to be completely destroyed as the crop was submerged for more than a week.

With many parts of state drought-hit, farmers had used cane for fodder. Many farmers in Ahmednagar and Solapur districts uprooted their cane crops because of water scarcity. Therefore, cane cultivation area was reduced from 11.62 lakh hectare in 2018-19 to 8.43 lakh hectare, severely affecting sugar production.

When contacted, Maharashtra Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said that the picture will become clear when the Commissionerate takes stock of the number of factories that apply for crushing licences for the season.

The last date for the crushing licenses is August 31 and we have decided to extend the date. Gaikwad said that the decision with regard to the start of the season will be taken at the meeting of the committee of ministers. As of now we have not received any requests from millers to delay the crushing season but most of the millers have been verbally stating that the start of the season should be delayed, he said.

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