For the first time, the entire discussion at a sugar conference in India shifted towards ethanol and the government recognised it by asking mills to pass on the benefits to consumers. However, the 20 per cent target to blend ethanol with petrol by 2025 could possibly add 76 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions unless the government ensures the physical transportation of the 1,016 crore litres by other means than trucks.

“Sugar sector is smiling. The smile has to be passed on to consumers,” Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said on Wednesday, addressing a conference on ‘Sugar and ethanol’, organised by Brazil’s Datagro in association with the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA). “We are on track as far as capacity creation is concerned,” Pandey said exuding confidence that the country can achieve the target in next three years.

Moots umbrella body

He urged the private sector to create an umbrella body of all stakeholders to proceed on ethanol blending programme as many experts have opined that India should go for 85 per cent blending while some others have sought 100 per cent ethanol.

Addressing on “Ethanol distribution & Logistics”, Akhilesh Goyal, Managing Director of Madhya Pradesh-based Maa Rewa Sugar said: “As per NITI Aayog, for 20 per cent blending, a total quantity of 1,016 crore litres would be required, for which logistical infrastructure has to be streamlined and strengthened.”

He cited that to carry the entire quantity of required ethanol, about 3,50,000 tanker trucks shall be required based on one truck carrying 29,000 litres. “Movement of these number of trucks would result in GHG emission of 76 million tonnes, unless most of the ethanol is moved either through pipeline or by Railways,” Goyal said.

Currently, almost entire quantity of ethanol is moved through tankers by road and is costlier due to increased cost, simultaneously burning more diesel.

Brazilian model unfeasible

Earlier, responding to a suggestion from Datagrow’s Plinio Nastari that India should go for E100 (100 per cent blending) and not E85 (85 per cent blending), Prashant Banerjee, executive director of Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), said that the Brazillian model cannot be adopted in India since both countries have many different issues to handle. He advocated for a gradual increase in blending, which was supported by Food Secretary Pandey.

“Brazil has 80 per cent four-wheelers whereas India has 80 per cent two-wheelers and the number of annual vehicle production in Brazil is 10 lakh whereas it is more than a crore in India,” SIAM’s Banerjee said. Nastari had said 83 per cent of vehicles in Brazil are flexi fuels which can run on different percentage of blending.

ISMA has recently sought the introduction of flexi fuel vehicles in India instead of conforming first to E20 (20 per cent ethanol blended petrol) and later to higher blending.

Speaking on the sidelines, ISMA President Aditya Jhunjhunwala said that it is time the government hiked the minimum selling price (MSP) of sugar from current ₹31/kg which has not been revised after 2019. He said though the ex-mill price is higher than MSP, the market moves on sentiments.

He said current ex-mill price in Maharashtra is ₹33-34/kg against ₹35-36 year-ago and ₹35-36 in Uttar Pradesh against ₹37-3 year-ago. The MSP was introduced by the government to help mills realise a reasonable rate so that they clear the sugarcane dues of farmers in time.