Agri Business

Marathwada mandarin wants farmers to shun cane

Rahul Wadke Mumbai | Updated on August 29, 2019

In the eight districts of Marathwada, on an average, one tonne of the sugarcane crop needs about 70,000 litres of water   -  AP

‘Contributes hugely to water woes of the region’

The Aurangabad Divisional Commissioner has decided to recommend to the State government that farmers in the Marathwada region be dissuaded from planting sugarcane and persuaded to shift to others crops in view of the recurrent droughts and acute water scarcity in the region.

Water-intensive crop

Depending on local conditions, soil type and methods of planting in the eight districts of Marathwada, on an average, one tonne sugarcane crop needs about 70,000 litres of water. Marathwada’s average yield per acre is about 50 tonnes, while the State’s average yield is 80 tonnes.

Divisional Commissioner Sunil Kendrekar told BusinessLine that at a time when the entire region does not have enough drinking water, sugarcane cultivation adds to the water woes.

The excessive cultivation of sugarcane has also lead to deterioration of soil. It has also spurred rampant water theft. Framers, using high-tech submersible and sometimes deeply buried motors, draw water from lakes and ponds and carry it to their fields through underground pipelines. Such thefts can only be detected with earth moving equipment such as JCB, he said.

Sugarcane was grown in 2.84 lakh hectares in Marathawada during 2018-19 season, while the total acreage in the Maharashtra stood at 11.62 lakh ha.

A total of 18.1 lakh tonnes of sugar was produced in Marathwada during 2018-19. Total production of sugar in Maharashtra stood at 107.2 lakh tonnes in 2018-19. The region has nearly 1.25 lakh sugarcane farmers.

Hardship for community

By indiscriminately drawing water from common water bodies, sugarcane farmers deprive others of their share of water during summer months.

The data on sugarcane farmers are available with sugarcane factories and they should be persuaded to shift to other crops such as oilseeds and soyabean, the Divisional Commissioner said. The report is very detailed and has the facts and figures highlighting the role of sugarcane farmers in aggravating the water stress in the region. The region needs to come out of sugarcane farming and the mills should be relocated, he added.

Proposal opposed

A farmer leader, Raghunathdada Patil of the Shetkari Sanghatana, has vehemently opposed any such move, saying the farmers have the right to plant the crop of their choice. He added that if Marathwada is facing water crisis then the water from other regions of the State should be diverted to the region.

If mega projects such as bullet trains can get funding, then why can’t additional water be diverted to the region using large irrigation schemes, he asked.

Published on August 29, 2019

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