Agri Business

More sugar mills in Maharashtra may remain idle this year

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on September 04, 2019 Published on September 04, 2019

Drought in Marathwada and floods in the sugar belt of western Maharashtra have ruined sugarcane crops   -  THE HINDU

Many sugar mills in Maharashtra may not procure sugarcane owing to shortage of cane this season. According to the Sugar Commissioner’s office, 195 sugar mills crushed 952.60 lakh tonnes of sugarcane to produce 1,071 lakh quintals of sugar last season.

However, an equal number of sugar mills (195) remained idle last year. The number of non-operational mills might multiply this year, according to industry watchers. The number of non-operational sugar mills in 2017-18 was 188.

Reduced acreage

Drought in Marathwada and floods in the sugar belt of western Maharashtra have ruined sugarcane crops. Sugarcane tracts in Sangli and Kolhapur districts were submerged in recent flood waters. According to industry experts, sugarcane acreage in Maharashtra this year is 8.43 lakh hectares.

As of now, only eight sugar mills have approached the Sugar Commissioner’s office seeking permission to operate and the Commissioner has extended the deadline for applications till this month-end. Many of the mills start crushing in October. However, still there are no signs of mills launching the season this year.

Sugarcane farming is the source of livelihood for nearly 2.5 crore people in rural Maharashtra. The sugarcane industry provides direct employment to about 1,65,000 workers, besides eight lakh workers engaged in harvesting and transport operations every year for six months. Industry experts fear that non-functioning of sugar factories would add to the woes of the ongoing economic slump. The sugar industry accounts for an annual revenue of over ₹2,000 crore to the government.

‘Political crop’

Agriculture expert Nishikant Bhalerao said sugarcane is a “political crop” as the industry is lifeline of State politics. He said that ahead of State assembly polls, issue of non-operating sugar mills might be a cause for concern for politicians across party lines.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis recently hinted that the State has no plans to ban sugarcane cultivation. Recently, the Aurangabad Divisional Commissioner had recommended that sugarcane cultivation be discouraged in drought-hit areas. When asked about the recommendation, Fadnavis told reporters that he has not gone through the report, but the State wants farmers to use micro-irrigation to grow cane crop.

Published on September 04, 2019
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