Pune, known as the sugar hub of Maharashtra, is facing a water crisis with just 19 per cent of water left in dams according to the State government’s data. Except for the Konkan region, other parts of the State have received deficient rainfall this season. While experts have predicted that the rain deficiency might continue till mid-July, sugarcane farmers are worried.

Tatya Shirsat from Karad in Satara district said that the irrigation department is not allowed to use water for irrigation due to depleting water levels in dams. He said the shortage of water would affect the growth of cane and also it will have an impact on the extract rate of the sugar.

Sugarcane estimates

Pre-monsoon rains followed by seasonal showers help sugarcane crop, but this year overall sugarcane cultivation and production are likely to be affected, says K J Chavan from Kolhapur. He added that farmers are not willing to go for the plantation of new sugarcane crop due to rain deficiency.

Last season’s lower cane yield was due to higher ratoon crop share and uneven distribution of rainfall according to industry players. According to State government officials, the overall sugarcane cultivation this season is likely to go up by 40,000 hectares compared to the last sugar season, but delayed monsoon might change these estimates.

Failed scheme

The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) in its earlier reports had stated that sugarcane cultivation in Maharashtra uses almost 70 per cent of the State’s irrigation water.

In 2017 the State government made a decision to make drip irrigation mandatory for the sugarcane crop after 2019. But the plan has remained on paper due to a lukewarm response from farmers.