About 122 factories in Maharashtra exported more than 30 per cent of their 2021-22 sugar production while 20 factories exported more than 90 per cent. Maharashtra emerged as the highest sugar exporter and producer in India in 2021-22 Sugar Season (SS) exporting almost 60 per cent of total exports in India. 

Sugar industry players in Maharashtra expect that mills will continue the momentum in the coming SS and the State will consolidate its position as India’s sugar hub, thanks to political bonhomie here which has helped the sugar industry to flourish.  

Maharashtra exported 63.68 lakh tons of sugar in 2021-22 SS (October 1, 2021 to July 31, 2022) followed by Karnataka at 15.32 lakh tons and Gujarat at 12.5 lakh tons. Uttar Pradesh exported 9.66 lakh tons, just 9.33 per cent of the total exports.  

About 203 Maharashtra mills will start crushing for the 2022-23 season from October 15. According to the State government, Maharashtra has a 35 per cent share in India’s ethanol production. 

Political bonhomie 

The sugar industry was once dominated by Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders in the State. Today, BJP leaders have entered the arena, led by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari.

“State politicians have not politicised the industry and have ensured that overall sugar industry doesn’t suffer in political one-upmanship. There are political games and counter games like approving and disapproving financial support, but that has not resulted in the closure of mills,” says Ashok Ghorpade who has studied western Maharashtra’s sugar politics closely. 

Sugarcane workers at Sant Tukaram Sugar Factory at Kasarsai-Darumbre village in Pune. (Jignesh Mistry)

Sugarcane workers at Sant Tukaram Sugar Factory at Kasarsai-Darumbre village in Pune. (Jignesh Mistry)

Not surprisingly NCP President Sharad Pawar recently said that Gadkari is the voice of sugarcane growers at the centre. “Gadkari has been addressing concerns of all party sugar mills at the central level, the role which Pawar played during his tenure,” said one of the senior Congress leaders who was a director with the Sangli-based sugar mill.

He added that many of the sugar barons in Congress and NCP are now with the BJP. However, still, the majority of sugar millers in Congress and NCP have managed to run mills successfully because of the political understanding across party leaders. 

FRP and MSP 

The sugar millers across party lines have demanded that the Union government reduce interest on delayed Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) payments to farmers from 15 per cent to 7.5 per cent. The industry has also demanded a rise in the Minimum Selling Price (MSP) of sugar from ₹3,100 per quintal to ₹3,600.  

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