Maharashtra Minister for Cooperation Subhash Desh-mukh has signalled the government’s readiness to usher in major reforms in the sugar industry, which could pave the way for gradual decontrol of the sector. These reforms come at a time when around 50 per cent of the sugar mills in the state are in various degrees of financial distress.
Deshmukh said the state was in favour of doing away with the renewal of crushing licenses for the mills. Crushing licenses are issued by the sugar commissionerate before the start of the crushing season, and mills that start operating without it can invite penal action.
“The need for yearly renewal of crushing licences is cumbersome and the state government is in favour of scrapping it. Mills need to send us a proposal on this and we will take it up with the Centre, to make the necessary changes in the Sugarcane Control Act,” he said.
The move, Deshmukh said, was in line with the government’s attempt to deregulate industries and reduce the number of licences required. He said that the government had already brought down the licences necessary for setting up of industries from 60 to 27. “Like other sectors, the sugar sector should be allowed to regulate. We are also in favour of reducing other restrictions, such as aerial distance between two mills,” he said.
The proposals, he said, should come from the sector and the state would then take it up with the Centre. Last season, 177 mills had gone for crushing.
While ruling out immediate financial boosters for the mills, Deshmukh said the state would help in restructuring their loans or selling of excess land to help mills get on their feet.
By 2019, all cane fields in the state should be under drip irrigation, Deshmukh said. “During our meeting with sugar millers, it was proposed that the government and the mill owners contribute in setting up of drip facilities along with farmers. We will consider it,” he said.