The first advance estimate of sugarcane output released by the Agriculture Ministry projects that at least 33 million tonnes (mt) of additional sugarcane will be available for crushing that can produce a minimum of 3 mt of sugar more in the next season starting October 1.

In the current sugar season (October-September), sugar production has been pegged at 35.37 mt until July 15 and an additional 3.5 mt has been diverted towards ethanol taking the effective output to 38.9 mt. Next season, the sugar for ethanol has been estimated at 4.5 mt by the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA). So, sugar production (excluding ethanol) is likely to exceed 37 mt, said an industry official. The preliminary forecast of ISMA has pegged the output at 35.5 mt next season.

In between 2 estimates

“Between the first and fourth estimate of the Agriculture Ministry, there was an increase of more than 12 mt in sugarcane output this season and since the sowing area is already higher and the crop is in good condition, the first estimate for this year, though higher, looks a little conservative,” the industry official said. The acreage under sugarcane was 55.65 lakh hectare (lh) as of September 16 — up from 54.97 lh year-ago.

The Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP), in its price policy report of 2022-23, has pointed out that the Agriculture Ministry’s first advance estimates for 2021-22 pegged the output at 419.25 mt, whereas the Mahalanobis National Crop Forecast Centre’s forecast in August had estimated it at 458.12 mt. The actual production was somewhere in between at 431.81 mt, as per fourth advance estimates.

Both ISMA’s (31 mt) and the Government’s (30.8 mt) first estimates were much below the final production in the current season, which looks likely to be 35.5 mt.

“Though it was lower, at least there was no domestic shortage as a higher estimate could have facilitated more exports, which has eventually been capped at 11.2 mt,” an official said. He also said the government would keep in mind the likely surplus when it formulates the next export policy. There could be a fixed quota for each mill until March and it would be reviewed based on actual production from time to time, the official said.

Gadkari’s plea

At a sugar conference on September 21, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey had said the next export policy would be announced soon, while joint secretary Subodh Kumar Singh said the policy would help mills to export as much quantity as possible during November-March, before the produce from Brazil enters the market.

At the same event, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari advised the sugar millers to reduce the production of sugar and increase the ethanol output. He also advised the industry to think about increasing the demand for ethanol, rather than every time looking to the government to raise the rates of biofuel. “My request is to reduce the production of sugar otherwise the future is very bad,” Gadkari said.

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