Sugarcane is one of the least mechanised crops, especially when it comes to harvesting and threshing. The data shows that only 10 per cent of field operations in sugarcane planting and harvesting are mechanised.
But the picture might change in the next few seasons. According to the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories, at the beginning of sugar crushing season this year, mills in Maharashtra had placed orders for about 200 harvesters. Next season, many mills in Uttar Pradesh — the largest sugarcane producer State — might opt for the same model.
It is not only sugar mills, but big farmers also are purchasing sugar harvesters so that they can complete operations faster and don’t have to rely on cane cutters.
The central and State governments are encouraging mechanisation of farming in a big way to increase the efficiency of farming and experts say that Covid-19 might accelerate farm mechanisation as farmers had to rely on machinery for works during lockdowns.
The central government launched ‘Sub Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM)’ in 2014-15 aimed at ‘reaching the unreached’ by making farm machines accessible and affordable for the small and marginal farmers among other objectives.
Benefits of mechanisation
During 2014-15 to 2020-21, ₹4,556.93 crore has been released under the SMAM scheme to the States and other implementing institutions. As of February 2021, more than 13 lakh agricultural machines have been distributed. For 2021-22, ₹1,050 crore budget has been allocated for the scheme, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. According to the government data, the farm power availability has increased from 2.02 kw/ha in 2016-17 to 2.49 kw/ha in 2018-19 and there has been a significant increase in the adoption of agriculture machines over a period of time.
Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar told Lok Sabha in March this year that the impact evaluation studies highlight the overall positive impact of mechanisation on farming as it was reported that mechanisation helped in the overall increase of 17.9 per cent in productivity and 14.1 per cent in seed germination. Mechanisation also helped in saving nearly one-third of the time of operations, 11 per cent reduction in seed rate, 26.6 per cent reduction in weed instances, 22.4 per cent reduction in diesel consumption and 12.7 per cent reduction in fertiliser requirements.
There are 263.1 million agricultural workers in the country, as per Census 2011, comprising 118.8 million cultivators and 144.3 million agricultural labourers. The government estimates 30 per cent of the reduction in labour requirements once mechanisation gains momentum.