India’s sugar production up to April 15 since the season began from October 1, 2023 has reached near 311 lakh tonnes (lt) while only 84 mills, including 42 in Uttar Pradesh, still continuing their operations out of a total 532 mills that started crushing. Mills crushing operations may soon come to a close across the country, except Tamil Nadu.

Sugar production in Maharashtra, the country’s top producer, was up at 109.2 lt against 105.9 lt in the year-ago period. But, production in Karnataka, the third largest producer, was down at 50.60 lt from 54.95 lt, industry data show.

Output in Uttar Pradesh was reported to be higher at 101.45 lt against 96.70 lt in the year-ago period. Sugar output in Gujarat was down at 9.19 lt from 9.98 lt and in Tamil Nadu at 8.60 lt from 10.10 lt. Other States including Bihar, Haryana and Punjab have together produced 31.89 lt, lower from 34.75 lt year-ago.

Diversion for ethanol

According to the fortnightly update on production issued by Indian Sugar & Bio-energy Manufacturers Association (ISMA) on Tuesday, the total sugar output across the country has reached 310.93 lt until April 15 against 312.38 lt in the year-ago period. This sugar output is excluding the quantity diverted towards production of ethanol.

“We are hopeful that the sugar production this year will reach 320 lt (excluding diversion to ethanol) as some mills in Uttar Pradesh are still in operation where the total production may reach 105 lt. Also, another 5 lt may be produced in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in the second period of the season,” Deepak Ballani, Director-General of ISMA told businessline.

Contrary to expectations, Maharashtra’s sugar production is up from last season while Uttar Pradesh may end up a tad higher from 2022-23 season. Industry experts had earlier estimated Maharashtra’s sugar production to drop by 10 lt from 105 lt in 2022-23 while in Uttar Pradesh it was pegged higher at 115 lt from 105 lt last year.

Closure pace higher

“All estimates were not only wrong, but were contrary to expectations. A marginal up and down in estimates are understandable, but this year the trend in both these States was not captured by anyone,” said a government official. Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka are country’s top three sugar producers with a combined share of 84 per cent during October 1-April 15 of current season.

In the current year, the government has capped the sugar to be diverted for ethanol at 17 lt while there was a total of 38 lt that got diverted for the biofuel in entire season during 2022-23. Actually sugar is not diverted to ethanol. The production estimate is in the terms of the quantity that could have been produced if not diverted to ethanol. Sugar mills produce ethanol from cane juice/syrup, B-heavy molasses and C-heavy molasses.

“Pace of closure in the first fortnight of April has been much higher than a year ago — 128 mills closed their operations during this period against 55 mills a year ago,” ISMA said in a statement. Overall, 448 factories have concluded their crushing operations nationwide up to April against 401 in the same period last year, whereas number of operating factories at present is 84, as against 132 mills in the corresponding period in the previous year.