The Indian government, on Tuesday, said it estimates maize output to increase by 10 million tonnes (mt) over the next five years if the growing demand for ethanol production and poultry industry has to be met.

Inaugurating India Maize Summit, organised by FICCI, Union Agriculture Secretary Manoj Ahuja stressed the need to cut down losses in the entire value chain of maize in a systematic manner.

“Currently, maize production is in the range of 33-34 mt. We need a quantity jump in maize to 44-45 mt in the next five years in order to meet the rising demand for ethanol and the poultry industry,” Ahuja said. As the potential is high to achieve the target, making better seed availability, providing storage and marketing linkages, public and private partnerships should be the focus when agriculture is threatened by climate change impact, he said.

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As per the second advance estimates, maize production in 2022-23 crop year (July-June) is estimated at a record 34.61 mt against 33.73 mt the previous year. But, a YES Bank-FICCI report released on the occasion said the production will likely fall (from the current level) to 34.21 mt in 2026 and marginally improve to 37.02 mt in 2031.

Support for value chain

Maharashtra Agriculture Minister Abdul Sattar said the State government is ready to support private players that are keen to invest in the value chain of maize, especially ethanol. “If companies are keen to invest in the maize value chain, we are ready to support as this will empower our farmers,” he said.

The sugar sector, in the last season, contributed over 80 per cent of ethanol supplied to oil marketing companies (OMCs) under the ethanol-blending programme, while the remaining 20 per cent came from grain-based plants. Many grain-based plants use rice as their feedstock as it is cheaper than maize. The government provides rice for ethanol at subsidised rate of ₹20/kg.

Also read: Maharashtra, UP, Karnataka have 96% share in sugar diversion towards ethanol

Currently, the country has the total capacity to produce 1,082 crore litres of ethanol per annum, out of which 723 crore litres (67 per cent) are installed by sugar mills and others to be produced from molasses and 359 crore litres (33 per cent) from grain-based plants. Some sugar mills have dual-feed ethanol plants, which allow them to shift to grains in case there is lower availability of sugarcane.

Sattar said Maharashtra has the second highest number of sugar mills in the country after UP, and maize can be used for ethanol making in the State as this would enhance the income of the farmers, he said. Further, he said private companies are welcome to set up warehouses in Maharashtra as maize growers would be benefitted by keeping their stocks to sell at the appropriate time when prices improve.