With only five sugar mills operational in Pune region, the 2015-16 crushing season has virtually come to an end in the state. This would be one of the shortest seasons the state has ever seen, with last year’s crushing season ending well past June.
Of the 177 mills that had started to operate last year, on Tuesday, it was found that only five mills remain operational. Of the five operational mills, one is in Satara, whereas Pune and Sangli have two mills each. While mills in Marathwada had started shutting operations from January, all the 38 mills in sugarcane-rich Kolhapur region have long ceased operations also. Likewise, mills in Ahmednagar, Nashik and Amravati have finished their crushing for the season. Last year, mills in Kolhapur and Pune had continued operations well past May with the last mill ending its crushing in June.
The current crushing season had seen 740.76 lakh metric tonnes of sugarcane being crushed and 836.88 lakh quintal of sugar being produced. The average recovery for the current season is around 11.3 per cent, a tad bit higher than that of last year when the recovery was 11.27 per cent. The crushing season of 2014-15 had seen 178 mills being operational with 911.6 lakh metric tonnes of sugarcanes being crushed and 1027.17 lakh quintals of sugar being produced.
After two consecutive years of record production, the current season had started under the pall of drought and unpaid dues. Sugar prices had crashed last year, resulting in millers defaulting in their payment of fair and remunerative price (FRP) to the sugarcane growers. The season had started with payment arrears of over Rs 1,000 crore. The sugar commissioner had ordered auction for the sugar stock of 11 mills over their failure to pay the sugarcane growers for the season 2014-15 . For the current season, 12 such orders were issued, of which stock of only two mills were auctioned as the rest had either obtained stay from the minister of cooperation or from the courts. The current season had also seen suspension of crushing licence of 14 mills for non clearance of their dues — a first of its kind in the state.
Mills till date have crushed sugarcane worth of Rs 16,012 crore, of which payment to the tune of Rs 12,856 crore was made. The payment made adheres to the 80:20 payment schedule fixed at the start of the crushing season with the payment of Rs 3,156 crore yet to be made.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghathana has demanded payment by May 1, which the millers say is not possible. The season has seen 43 lakh tonnes of sugar being sold, a bit lesser than the previous year’s figures.
Just seven mills in the state have paid 100 per cent FRP this season. The next crushing season, the millers have said, would see far lesser cane area and lesser mills going for crushing. BB Thombare , the chairman of Western Indian Sugar Mills Association (WISMA) has said that most of the mills in Marathwada would not be going for crushing. “There would not be enough sugarcane,” he said.