Delay crushing season to give cane crop time to recover from drought, flood: Maharashtra sugar millers

Parthasarathi Biswas
The state s cane crop this year has faced the brunt of drought as well as floods. (File Photo)

SUGAR MILLERS in Maharashtra are asking for the crushing season to be delayed, which will give the standing cane crop in western Maharashtra as well as drought-hit Marathwada time to recover.

Rohit Pawar, president of the Indian Sugar Mills Association, the apex body of private sugar mills in the country, said as against the present practice of starting the crushing season on October 1, the season should start on November 15.

The state s cane crop this year has faced the brunt of drought as well as floods. While the crop in Marathwada and Ahmednagar has wilted due to the incessant drought, the crop in Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur has faced devastating flood.

As against the 11.43 lakh hectares of cane that the state had reported this year, the mills were to crush only over 8.43 lakh hectares of crop. The state s sugar production was set to fall from last year s 107.21 lakh tonnes (lt) to 64 lt.

These figures are expected to be further revised as the cane growing districts reported losses due to floods. The floods have ravaged crop over 4.09 lakh hectares with Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur reporting around 2.16 lakh hectares, of which 60 per cent was under the cane crop. Around 70,000 hectares of cane is estimated to be completely destroyed as the crop was submerged for more than a week.

Cane, which has survived the floods, will require some time to rehabilitate, Pawar said. Similarly, cane in drought-affected areas will also require some time to mature as these areas had received good amount of rainfall.

Taking both these conditions into consideration, it will be advisable for the crushing season to start from November 15, he said. Mills normally start crushing operations in the first week of October. Unlike Karnataka, the date of crushing in Maharashtra is decided by the state government.

As many as 10 teams of three scientists each from Pune-based Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI) have been visiting flood-affected cane region. Vikas Deshmukh, director of VSI, said scientists have surveyed the fields and relayed suggestions about the cane.

In some areas, we have suggested farmers to go for short duration crop such as wheat, chana and then going in for cane plantation again in June, he said.

Mills have discussed the slight increase in ex mill sugar prices this month. Mukesh Kuvadiya, honorary treasurer of the Bombay Sugar Merchants Association, said at present, sugar prices were between Rs 3,150 to 3,320 per quintal. This is mostly due to the lower quota for the present month despite the festive season, he said.