Innovation and diversification: 3 P’s to be addressed for sustainability of the sugar industry

Productivity, Product and Policy, three P’s are the pillars of a sustainable sugar industry. Each has its paramount importance and far reaching consequences affecting the profitability of the sugar industry and hence the welfare of all the stakeholders, particularly, the sugarcane farmers, said Prof. Narendra Mohan, Former Director, National Sugar Institute, Kanpur.

Although, all the stakeholders work in a cohesive manner to take Indian Sugar Industry forward, yet new challenges keep on coming, necessitating remodeling of the strategy and business plans. Thankfully, the Government of India made lot of policy interventions, especially, to address the sugar demand-supply balance and converting sugar units into hub of green energy, yet more may be required keeping in view the projected sugarcane availability during the crushing season 2024-25.

Raw material of good quality and in abundance is the essence of success of any industry. Sugar Industry also needs now more sugarcane, much more than ever, to meet sugar and ethanol requirements. Unfortunately, due to adverse climatic conditions in tropical region and failure of dominant sugar variety in the subtropical region, the farm productivities have gone down and so is the availability of sugarcane. We need to work on higher farm productivity through introduction of climate resilient, high yielding and high sugared varieties requiring less irrigation water too. Apart from “Farm Productivity”, we have to ensure “Benchmark Factory Productivity” as well through introduction of best available technologies to meet future requirements, stressed Prof. Mohan.

Another “P” which is of paramount importance is the “Product” and sugar industry is supposed to have many products in shelves so as to cater to the need of various sectors and increase revenue streams, said Prof. Mohan. It is not only a particular type of sugar which is to be produced but qualities should of in accordance to the need of various markets. Further, looking beyond sugar is always important and although Indian sugar factories have now taken a lead in production of ethanol but there is long way to go for exploiting the sugarcane value chain, harnessing the potential of by-products and converting “waste to wealth”, he added.

As I said, sustainability of any industry like sugar industry is very much dependent upon the policy framework and interventions made from time to time. There is need for putting at place a logical price fixation mechanism for sugarcane on pan India basis, addressing the debatable issues related to deduction of extraneous matter in mechanically harvested sugar cane and aerial distance between two sugar factories. In addition to it, looking to requirement of alternate feed stocks for ethanol production, policy interventions shall be required for promoting sweet sorghum, sugar beet and cassava based ethanol to make ethanol blending programme a success. Besides addressing some more issues related to MSP for sugar and revision of prices of ethanol as a result of hike in FRP for sugarcane shall be required, emphasized Prof. Narendra Mohan.


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