Sugar millers from Maharashtra, already bogged down by falling demand and price, now have to reckon with sugar from Uttar Pradesh. Thanks to the logistical advantage, sugar from the northern state is fast posing a challenge even in the traditional markets which were monopolised by Maharashtra’s sugar sector
Since the adoption of the ‘wonder variety’ Co 0238, Uttar Pradesh has surpassed Maharashtra as the top sugar producing state in the country. Two consecutive droughts had also hurt Maharashtra’s sugar production, which has further cemented Uttar Pradesh’s claim.
This year, while Maharashtra is projected to produce 73 lakh tonnes (lt) of sugar, UP is all set to touch the 100 lt production figure.
This variety, developed by Dr Bakshi Ram, director of the Indian Council of Agriculture Research’s Sugarcane Breeding Institute in Comibatore, has helped both millers and farmers in Uttar Pradesh. The higher sucrose content in this variety has helped millers recover more sugar per tonne of cane crushed and for farmers, this variety has resulted in higher yield per acre.
Millers from Maharashtra say that UP millers, thanks to increased sugar production, have now started making inroads into markets which were traditionally cornered by them like Delhi, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. To add to Maharashtra millers’ woes, UP millers enjoy logistical advantage — they are geographically nearer to these markets and thus charge less on transport costs. “UP’s domestic consumption is around 37-38 lt and as compared to its previous production records of 50-60 lt, this year it is all set to produce 100 lt of sugar. The excess sugar obviously challenges the markets which were traditionally captured by us,” said a miller from Kolhapur.
On Friday, cooperative and private millers from Maharashtra held a meeting to discuss the various issues plaguing the sector. BB Thombare, president of the Western India Sugar Mills Association (WISMA) — the apex body of private millers in Maharashtra — said they have decided to meet the chief minister early in January to discuss the issues. “In view of the falling prices, payment of the fair and remunerative price (FRP) to the growers is becoming a major issue for us. Unless there are some policy level tweaks, the mills will soon not be in a position to pay the growers,” he said.
To arrest the falling prices, millers in Maharashtra want the creation of a buffer stock of 50 lt along with 100 per cent ban on imports. The millers also want the 20 per cent export duty on sugar to be waived off along with the Re 1.2 per unit cost levied on captive consumption of electricity generated by millers themselves.