Agri Business

Demand for harvesters for cane-cutting rises on labour crunch

| | Updated on: Dec 28, 2011
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In this sugar season, the song of the cane cutters is being increasingly replaced by the rumble of sugarcane harvesters.

Acute shortage of agricultural labourers is forcing farmers to use harvesters for cutting cane. The companies selling harvesters are seeing 100 per cent increase in the sales over last year.

The harvester is a large machine weighing about eight tonnes and costing about Rs 80 lakh to Rs 1.10 crore. It can cut about 120 tonnes of sugarcane in about 16 hours.

ALTERNATIVE EMPLOYMENT

Farmers in major sugarcane growing States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Karnataka are not getting labourers for cutting sugarcane. Employment guarantee scheme like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) and road building projects are providing alternative employment to the labourers.

Mr Gaurav Sood, General Manager (Crop Solutions) of New Holland Fiat (India) Pvt Ltd, told Business Line that since April about 180 harvesters have been sold across country, while last year the company could sell about 70. The rush for harvesters is such that, orders placed in July are being delivered in December, he said.

This year there is a strong demand for harvesters from western and southern States, while the demand is picking up in Uttar Pradesh. Among all the States, Maharashtra is the largest buyer with about 70 harvesters already deployed in the field, he said.

Mr Sood said the Brazilin sugar industry has been using harvesters for the last 15 years and they are now selling about 1,200 harvesters a year. In India that number would be reached in about three years, given the rapid demand for harvesters in the market.

THAI HARVESTER

Sensing a business opportunity, Shrijee Group, an established player in manufacturing sugar plant equipment, has tied up with a Thai manufacturer for supplying harvesters. Last year, it introduced the Thai harvester in Indian market and managed to sell 5 machines. But this year, 25 harvesters have already been sold and there is demand for more.

Mr G. D. Agarwal, Chairman of Shrijee Group, said the going is good for Indian harvester market with rising demand from sugar mills and private contractors who want to hire out the machines.

The company has plans to manufacture its own machines by December 2013. With indigenisation the cost will come down by 20 per cent, he said.

Mr Agarwal also pointed that “Indian farmers are habituated to plant sugarcane in a very close nit manner, which makes it difficult for the machines to cut sugarcane completely in a farm. But the sugar mills have now started educating farmers that at least four feet distance is required between two beds. In a few years, it would be possible to cut the whole crop using harvester,” he said.

rahulw@thehindu.co.in

Published on December 28, 2011

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