Sugar mills in Maharashtra have crushed 944.82 lakh tonnes (lt) of sugarcane to date, producing 95.29 lt of sugar. Out of the total 207 mills that started operations this sugar season, 22 mills have completed their operations. During the same period last year, 211 sugar mills in Maharashtra crushed 998.17 lt of sugarcane, resulting in the production of 99.12 lt of sugar.

However, industry insiders are optimistic and forecast a higher sugar output by the season’s end. This optimism stems from the current season’s higher extract rate of 10.09 per cent, a significant improvement over the 9.93 per cent achieved last year. Additionally, the increased availability of sugarcane due to unseasonal rains is expected to contribute to this uptick in production.

Farmers agitated  

Meanwhile, farmers in the western Maharashtra sugar belt are voicing concerns. They allege that sugar mills are not promptly lifting sugarcane, potentially compromising the yield and quality of the crop. Furthermore, farmers claim that sugarcane cutters are demanding additional payments, hampering harvesting efforts. Despite these challenges, the mills have reportedly been unresponsive to farmers’ grievances.

Compounding these issues is the prevailing water scarcity, particularly acute in Marathwada and Vidarbha regions. Local authorities have redirected water supply from agriculture to prioritise drinking water needs, resulting in sugarcane drying up in several areas. This situation has further fuelled farmers’ frustrations and added to their woes.

In response to these challenges, stakeholders are calling for improved coordination between sugar mills and farmers to ensure timely and fair practices in sugarcane procurement. Addressing water scarcity issues, especially in the drought-prone regions, is also deemed critical to sustaining the sugar industry and supporting the livelihoods of farmers in Maharashtra, said Dhananjay Bhosale, a farmer.