Agri Business

Sugar output may fall short of official estimates; 23 million tonnes more likely

Harish Damodaran New Delhi | Updated on February 03, 2011

SUGAR   -  Business Line

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The country's sugar production during the 2010-11 season (October-September) may fall well short of the Centre's estimates of 245.40 lakh tonnes (lt). The latest available trends suggest an output figure closer to 230 lt or even less.

In Maharashtra, factories had, till Wednesday, crushed 398.57 lt of cane – 17.3 per cent more than the 339.81 lt achieved during the corresponding period of the 2009-10 season.

But with average sugar-to-cane recovery being lower (10.53 per cent versus 10.96 per cent), cumulative sugar production has gone up by only 12.7 per cent – from 37.24 lt to 41.97 lt. This is below the 34.5 per cent increase projected by the Centre for the whole season (from 70.67 lt to 95.07 lt).

Maharashtra mills were initially expected to crush 825 lt of cane, which, at 11.5 per cent recovery, would have yielded about 95 lt of sugar. “It looks we will now end up crushing only 790 lt. At an average recovery of 11.4 per cent, that would translate into a sugar production of 90 lt,” said Mr Prakash Naiknavare, Managing Director, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Mills Federation.

Privately, millers estimate an even lower figure of 86-87 lt for the State, which they ascribe mainly to a recovery level not exceeding 11 per cent. “We have had lot of immature flowering of the cane crop this time. Early flowering has not only cut short the crop's growth duration (affecting yields), but even arrested sucrose accumulation (leading to lower sugar recovery),” a miller noted.

The story is not too different in Uttar Pradesh (UP). Mills in the country's No. 2 sugar producing State have crushed 348.70 lt of cane during the first four months of this season, as against 320.60 lt during October-January 2009-10. Progressive sugar output is up by 9.8 per cent, from 28.31 lt to 31.09 lt on a marginal improvement in recovery rates from 8.83 per cent to 8.92 per cent.

But again, the production increase has been much less than the 23.3 per cent projected by the Centre. “I don't see overall production rising by more than 10 per cent, which means around 57-58 lt,” a Ghaziabad-based miller pointed out.

UP, too, has witnessed large-scale incidence of flowering, which has particularly impacted the plant-cane, the harvesting of which has just commenced in most parts of the State.

“Last year, we had a very good plant-cane crop. This time, we have seen the emergence of flowers in the last 10 days. Since there is a 45-day interval between floral initiation and emergence, it is more or less clear that the crop ceased to grow after end-December. I will not be surprised if it results in lower recovery as well”, he added.

If these trends hold, Maharashtra together will produce roughly 14 lt less than the Centre's current estimates. In Karnataka, too, millers now reckon an output of not more than 30 lt, against the officially projected 32 lt. Andhra Pradesh may, likewise, report a one lt shortfall. All these add up to a total all-India production of 230 lt or thereabouts with a downward bias.

Published on February 03, 2011

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