The country may be heading for a yet another bumper sugarcane production in the coming season going by the increase in sugarcane acreage during the current kharif.
As per the sowing data released by the Agriculture Ministry last week, as on May 24 sugarcane is planted around 48.7 lakh hectares (lh) across the country as against 47.88 lh in the corresponding week last year. As of now, the planting is completed in 97 per cent of the normal area.
While sowing alone is not an indication of what the output would be, yet another bumper cane production may put the sugar industry, already reeling under low sugar prices under further strain.
As per the data, sugarcane is planted over 21.78 lh (21.40 lh) in Uttar Pradesh, and in Maharashtra 9.26 lh (9.18 lh); Karnataka 4.31 lh (4.25 lh) Tamil Nadu 2.79 lh (2.81 lh) and in Bihar 2.37 lh (2.22 lh).
This is not unexpected as the same the harvested sugarcane yields rattoon crop two years, said Pushpendra Singh, president of Kisan Shakti Sangh.
According to Singh, “ many mills, particularly in UP, reeling under glut in sugar production, refused to buy the cane that was brought to them during the last leg of the crushing season, farmers had little choice but to use them as seed, he said. Similarly, farmers, who have moved away from the water-guzzling crop in recent years went back to sugarcane. The crop is not susceptible to the menace of stray cattle which is a big problem since the Government imposed restrictions on cattle trade, Singh said.
Abinash Verma, Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) director general, said it was too early to predict a bumper crop as weather is critical. However, he was quick to add that the sugar industry which is under strain would find it difficult to handle yet another good harvest unless there is an intervention from the Government.
Currently, sugar mills in the country owe a record Rs 22,000 crore to sugarcane farmers despite a range of support measures.
Recently the sugar mills wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) requesting a minimum selling price for sugar.
“Like the Fair and Remunerative Price of sugarcane the Government should fix a minimum price for sugar,” said ISMA said .
The sugar production during the current sugar season (October-September) is projected to be 32 million tonnes – nearly 60 per cent higher than the previous season.