Achieving ethanol sustainability needs addressing current pricing issues

The Prime Minister has said recently that ‘Ethanol’ is one good example of the work done by the Modi-led BJP Government for the farmers. He said that not only sugar is produced from sugarcane but ethanol is also produced and sugarcane farmers have received about Rs 80,000 crore rupees through the purchase of ethanol in the past 10 years.

On a separate occasion, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said that increased demand for ethanol will change the agro-economy of the country and this will make farmers ‘urjadata’ (providers of energy)… they will no longer remain ‘annadata’ (providers of food). He emphasised that the ethanol industry is a blessing for farmers.

It is indeed true that the collective vision and mission of producing ethanol from sugarcane has revolutionised not only the sugar sector but also India’s auto-fuel sector, which is heavily dependent on crude imports, which bleeds the national exchequer. The indigenously produced green fuel- Ethanol by the farmers and sugar mills is steadily substituting petrol, and it is expected that in a few years, with the introduction of Flex-Fuel vehicles on Indian roads, ethanol will be the main vehicular fuel in the country.

However, there is a need to achieve stability in the Ethanol Blending Programme. The country today has a much higher ethanol production capacity as compared to the past, but a steady supply of ethanol is still to be achieved.

The apex private sugar body, ISMA has recently represented the Government with several course-corrective suggestions and policy intervention to achieve 20% ethanol blending target. The sugar industry wants the Government to fix the sugar MSP and ethanol prices along with the FRP every year establishing a harmony and financial viability. The Association said that by doing so, ethanol and sugar production will reach an equilibrium based on the market driven economics.

In essence, while the strides made in ethanol production are commendable, sustained efforts and conducive policy interventions are needed to overcome challenges and fully harness the potential of ethanol as a game-changer for farmers, the economy, and the environment.

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