THE TWO consecutive bumper cane harvesting years for the state’s sugar industry may have resulted in unsold stock for the sugar mills, but for the Railways, it has raked in profits.
The 10 per cent hike in the crushing of cane in 2014-15 (1,051 lakh quintal), in comparison to the previous year (930 lakh quintal), has resulted in a whopping hike of 66 per cent in sugar transport from the Pune Division of Indian Railways.
Railways is considered to be the preferred mode of transport for sugar consignments. According to senior officials with the commercial department of Pune Division, the freight carriage from Pune saw a hike of 43 per cent – a majority of the rise corresponds to increase in transport of sugar and that of petroleum, oil and lubricants (POL).
“In comparison to last year, our earning from goods has gone up by 43 per cent and a majority of the increase is due to hike in transport of sugar from Pune and adjoining districts to northern, north-eastern states and to southern ports, from where it is exported. Some of these are co-operative sugar mills while others are firms which aggregate produce from various mills for export. POL freight has also seen a marginal increase this year,” said Gaurav Jha, Senior Divisional Commercial Manager, Pune.
As per the data obtained from Jha’s office, a total of 310 rakes of goods train were booked between April 15 and October 15 this year from areas falling under Pune Division to be transported to various destinations as opposed to 187 rakes booked in the corresponding period last year. This indicates a 66 per cent rise.
In railways, a rake refers to an entire train which, in case of a goods train, would mean 40 compartments or wagons . A standard railway wagon has a capacity of 55 metric tonne. Thus a full rake can carry 2,200 metric tonne of goods.
In terms of revenue, Pune Division earned Rs 148.7 crore from the transport of sugar from April 15 to October 15 this year as compared to Rs 96.2 crore during the same period last year. Similarly, last year 120 full rakes of POL products were transported from Pune to other parts of the country in the six-month window, which shot up to 152 rakes this year. This resulted in a revenue surge of nearly eight crore from Rs 31.7 crore to Rs 39.3 crore.
Since the last two years the state has witnessed bumper production of sugar. The crushing season 2014-15 witnessed 930.41 lakh metric tonne of cane crushing and 1,051.43 lakh quintal of sugar being produced. This was a 10 per cent rise over the crushing season 2013-14, which witnessed 676.76 lakh metric tonne of cane being crushed and 771.2 lakh qunital of sugar being produced.
Due to the increase in production of sugar, both in the domestic and international market, mills struggled to sell their stock and were unable to pay the farmers the Fixed and Remunerative Price (FRP) that eventually led to cane arrears. As of October end, the cane arrears in the state stood at Rs 1,000 crore although the new crushing season has kick started.
Maharashtra is the second largest producer of sugar in the country producing more than 22 per cent of the total sugar produced in the country. Most of the sugar mills are located in districts of Kolhapur, Satara, Sangli, Pune and Solapur. The mills prefer using railways as the mode for transportation of sugar. With good rail connectivity in the region, mills use the freight services rather than the roadways.
Sanjiv Babar MD of the Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Association said, “Another reason is railways is cheaper and reliable than the roadways. There are separate rake for transport of sugar at Solapur and Kolhapur stations.”