Of the total 46 factories in Marathwada region, only 15-20 are expected to crush cane during the season.
The sugar season of 2019-20 in Maharashtra is likely to barely last three months since cane availability is a major issue. The season, according to senior industry people, is likely to commence either in the last week of November or the first week of December with the formation of the government in Maharashtra still hanging in balance. This could be one of the most delayed commencements for the season in the state so far, BB Thombare, president, Western India Sugar Mills Association (WISMA) observed.
“The official announcement of the start of the sugar season is usually taken at the meeting of the committee of ministers and there is no meeting in sight. Even if the government is formed soon, it may take some time for the committee of ministers to hold the meeting and announce the season, Thombare said.
After a prolonged spell of drought, the Marathwada region has reported heavy rainfall in the last 20 days which is again likely to affect the commencement of crushing in the state since the labourers cannot enter the fields which remain inundated with water, he said.
Of the total 46 factories in Marathwada region, only 15-20 factories are expected to crush cane during the season and of the 38 mills in Kolhapur, barely 20 mills are expected to crush cane since Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara were hit by heavy rains and floods last month, he added.
Maharashtra Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad had stated that around 159 mills in the state had applied for the crushing licenses this season. However, the delay in the formation of the government and the unseasonal rains are likely to affect harvesting for the next three weeks. This means the season could either be delayed to November end or even start of December.
Maharashtra had produced 107 lakh tonne of sugar last season, the highest-ever recorded in the state after crushing 952.11 lakh tonne of cane. Kolhapur and Sangli usually account for 30% of this cane which translates to around 216 lakh tonne of cane.
This season, however, heavy rains and floods in July and August affected around 62,000 hectare of cane. Incessant rains affected the growth of cane as well. Maharashtra has reported more than 8.43 lakh hectare of cane and the latest estimates by the cane commissioner’s office has even estimated production of 58.23 lakh tonne of sugar.
With cane availability becoming a major issue, sourcing cane from neighbouring Karnataka has become extremely difficult with zoning rules being considered by the government of Karnataka, Thombare said.
This would mean neither cane from Maharashtra can leave the state nor cane from Karnataka will be available for mills on the border of the state.
Normally, farmers from the border area near Nippani in Karnataka sell cane to factories in the nearby regions of Maharashtra.
This year, Maharashtra has witnessed unusually heavy rains in October due to Cyclone Kyarr and the Indian Meteorological Department has predicted another Cyclone Maha this week which means further spell of heavy rains. The entire state has been reeling under the impact of rains with crops being destroyed.
Meanwhile, as the start of the new season still continues to remain in abeyance, farmer activists met the Sugar Commissioner on Monday to seek action against millers that have defaulted in Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) payments.