Maharashtra’s sugarcane cultivation area has shrunk by over three lakh hectares in comparison to the previous cropping period with prevailing drought situation taking a toll on the standing crop. Surveys conducted by the sugar commissioner’s office have stated that in 2019-20 season, over 8.5 lakh hectares cane would be available for crushing, as against the 11 lakh hectares reported for 2018-19.
After two consecutive years of bumper crop, the ongoing drought situation has reportedly started taking toll on the area under cane cultivation across the state. Division-wise surveys have indicated a dip in the cultivation area, especially in Marathwada, Solapur and Ahmednagar. Millers from these areas have expressed reservations about cane availability, which, they fear, would force them not to take season later this year.
Solapur division reported cane acreage of 97,000 hectares as against the 1.90 lakh hectares of cane area of the last season. Similarly, Nanded and Aurangabad divisions have reported 81,000 hectares and 84,000 hectares of cane, respectively. In the previous season, millers in Nanded division had cane cultivation area of over 1.99 lakh hectares, while Aurangabad millers had crushed cane of over 1.42 lakh hectares. In the current season, mills in Ahmednagar have reported cane acreage of 84,000 hectares, which last season was 1.49 lakh hectares.
The sugar bowl region of south and western Maharashtra, however, have reported an increase in acreage of cane.
Cane area in Sangli increased by 6,000 hectares from last year to the present 95,000 hectares, while in Kolhapur it is around 1.55 lakh hectares. Pune and Satara districts have reported cane over 84,000 hectares and 1.10 lakh hectares, respectively. Around 10,000 hectares of cane has been reported from Nagpur region.
Unlike the previous season, when around 54 per cent of the available cane came from ratoon — crop grown from the stubble of the previously harvested cane — this year, the portion of the ratoon crop is expected to be around 40 per cent. “However, cane availability is going to be severely hit as farmers are uprooting their standing crop to use them as fodder,” an officer of the commissionerate said.
A delayed monsoon is another worry for the millers as, without water, the standing cane crop is all set to wilt away. “If the monsoon fails to arrive by the end of June, we expect another 10-15 per cent dip in cane area,” the officer said. The final call over cane availability would be taken in August, following which the production figures of the country would be updated.