Agri Business

Drip irrigation to be a must in Maharashtra’s sugarcane farms; details being worked out

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on February 04, 2015 Published on February 04, 2015

The State has 9.37 lakh ha under sugarcane cultivation

Taking a cue from Karnataka, the Maharashtra government has decided to make it mandatory for sugarcane farmers to use drip irrigation systems in their farms. The fund raising and modalities of such a massive plan is being worked out by various departments of the State government.

Karnataka has schemes worth ₹4,500 crore for shifting the entire 4.20 lakh hectares of sugarcane farms to drip irrigation in the next three years. In Maharashtra, sugarcane is cultivated on 9.37 lakh ha and therefore, expenses are expected to be double that of the neighbouring State.

Last week, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced that henceforth sugarcane cultivation would only be allowed on farms having functioning drip irrigation systems.

Water guzzler

A senior State government official said that sugarcane requires huge amount of water and its growth has been at the cost of other crops. Planning has started for raising the funds to implementthe project. On an average, the per acre cost of drip irrigation system is ₹40,000. The net outgo from the State exchequer as subsidy is being worked out, the official said.

A report on the sugar price policy for 2015-16 by Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices under the Union Ministry of Agriculture, has pointed that in Maharashtra, sugarcane cultivation, which is on less than 4 per cent of the total cropped area of the State, consumes 70 per cent of irrigation water. Future growth of cane in Maharashtra is likely to be severely hampered by scarce water supplies unless much of sugarcane is put on drip irrigation or varieties are evolved that use less water, the report said.

The report has starkly mentioned that sugarcane in Bihar consumes just 822 litres of water to produce a kg of sugar compared with over 2,100 litres in Maharashtra. Jagadeesh Sunkad, consultant, Asian Development Bank, said that Maharashtra government has taken the right decisions but the implementation needs to be fine tuned. Today, a farmer provides water to his sugarcane crop once in seven days but with drip irrigation he will require daily watering, which is again dependent on power supply, he said.

Farmers require the right amount of subsidy, coupled with regular power supply and maintenance know-how at village level to service the drips otherwise it will be dead investment and only the plastic and agri-tech companies will benefit from it, Sunkad said.

Published on February 04, 2015
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