Agri Business

Drought hits sugarcane planting in Maharashtra

Vishwanath Kulkarni New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018

Likely shortage of sugarcanes: A file photo of a drought-hit sugarcane field inMaharashtra

Sharad Pawar

The prevailing drought in Maharashtra, the country’s key sugar producing State, will affect the sugarcane availability for the 2013-14 season starting October. The shortage of water in major parts of cane growing areas has affected the fresh planting in the State.

A section of the industry estimates the sugarcane area in the State to be down by about 30 per cent over last year. This may impact next year’s sugar output in the State, which has seen prolonged dry spells in the past two years.

Admitting that sugar output will be lower in Maharashtra, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar maintained that the country’s total output for 2013-14 would be around the current year’s level of around 24 million tonnes.

In the current year, sugar production is expected to touch 24.5 mt.

Pawar said sugarcane planting has not yet begun in Maharashtra as the drought situation is so severe that the State Government has decided to save water for drinking purpose and not supply for crops.

“We feel that sugar production in Maharashtra could come down to around five million tonnes in 2013-14 from the current year’s seven million tonnes,” said Vinay Kumar, Managing Director, National Sugar Co-operative Federation Ltd.

However, the decline in output will not affect the availability as the country is expected to have comfortable carry forward stocks for 2013-14, Kumar said.

“If the monsoon arrives on time, there could be some revival of the crop,” Kumar said.

erratic monsoon

The erratic monsoon, last year, triggered a cane shortage as a major portion of the crop was diverted to fodder in the State. This has resulted in early closure of factories in the state. An estimated 40 factories have already closed their operations for the current season.

“The average decline in planted cane area for next season is about 30 per cent across the State. We expect the sugar output in the state to decline to around 5.3 mt next year from the current year’s projection of 7.3 mt,” said B.B. Mehta, Chief Executive Officer of Dalmia Bharat Sugar Industries Ltd.

The fresh cane acreage is down by about 10-15 per cent in Kolhapur, where Dalmia currently operates a 2,500 tonnes crushed a day (tcd) plant.

In other sugar zones such as Pune and Solapur, the cane acreage is down by 20-25 per cent and the highest decline would be in Marathawada and Vidarbha at around 35 per cent.

Officials at the Indian Sugar Mills Association preferred not to hazard any guess on the impact at this point in time.

“A clearer picture will emerge in about a month’s time once the field surveys and satellite mapping is completed” said Abinash Verma, Director General, ISMA.

In the neighbouring Karnataka, the crushing has almost come to an end. Narendra Murkumbi, Managing Director of Shree Renuka Sugars Ltd, said the fresh planting in northern Karnataka is down by about 54 per cent.

“This means the decline in acreage would be around 25-27 per cent of last year as half of the cane area is replanted every year,” he said.

> vishwanath.kulkarni@thehindu.co.in

Published on March 13, 2013

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