All the 207 sugar mills in Maharashtra that commenced crushing operations in the 2023-24 season have halted production, collectively producing 11.02 million tonnes (mt) of sugar — an increase of 0.49 mt compared with the previous season. Industry players are urging the Centre to lift the export ban on sugar and relax restrictions on ethanol production for the 2024-25 season to prevent a decline in sugar prices and maintain market availability.

Industry representatives said the Union government’s decision on export was guided by inaccurate production estimates and argued that permitting sugar exports is essential. The industry had initially feared a reduction in sugar output this season, but these concerns have been allayed. Notably, 103 co-operative and 104 private mills operated in Maharashtra, with Solapur division hosting the highest number of mills at 50.

Kolhapur tops production

Kolhapur division, a key sugar-producing region, led the State with 40 mills producing 2.81 mt of sugar and achieving the highest extraction rate of 11.59 per cent. Across Maharashtra, mills achieved an extraction rate of 10.27 per cent, up from 9.98 per cent last season, crushing a total of 107.308 mt of sugarcane compared with 105.53 mt in the previous season.

Of the total 207 mills, 59 were located in the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, with only eight mills operating in Vidarbha. Industry experts noted that unseasonal rains had positively impacted the cane crop, ensuring sufficient cane supply for all mills.

Despite a challenging start to the crushing season in November, marked by farmer protests demanding higher prices for their produce, the mills managed to operate successfully and meet production targets.

State Polls

With Lok Sabha polling in Maharashtra now concluded, the State is preparing for the Assembly elections in October. Sugar mill operators are concerned that farmers’ organisations, particularly those in the sugar belt, will intensify their demands for a higher Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP).

“The payment of FRP to farmers hinges on the central government’s decision regarding the export ban. Additionally, the government needs to consider raising the minimum sugar price so that mills can adequately compensate farmers. Sugar mills are being entangled in political issues, and with the Assembly elections approaching, many millers will face significant challenges. This will impact the upcoming crushing season,” said one industry player, speaking on the condition of anonymity.