THE STATE has once again crossed 107 lakh tonnes (lt) in terms of sugar production by the end of the crushing season of 2018-19, making this the second consecutive season when mills have crossed this figure, which is the highest ever sugar produced in the state in the last 10 years.
As of Friday, of the 195 mills, only five are operational. The state has witnessed crushing of 951.64 lt of cane and produced 107.07 lt of sugar. As expected, Kolhapur region, with Kolhapur and Sangli districts, has recorded the highest sugar production at 26.67 lt. The average recovery of the state as recorded at the end of the season stood at 11.25 per cent, a slight increase from the 11.22 per cent of last season.
The present season started with concerns over drought and white grub infestation in some parts of the state. Industry estimates had put the production figures at 90 to 91 lt. It was feared that production will be hit in Marathwada, Ahmednagar and Solapur.
However, as the season progressed, millers reported good per acre yield across the state, which led them to revise their production figures. Also, the release of water from the Jaikywadi Dam in Aurangabad managed to salvage a substantial portion of the crop in the drought-hit regions.
Maharashtra has never seen two consecutive seasons of record sugar production in the last 10 years. Thus, 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons will mark a major deviation from the state’s sugar production trend. Also, the present season witnessed almost an equal number of cooperative (102) and private mills (93).
Higher production figures necessarily do not mean better economics for the mills. Starting with a carryover stock of around 40 lt, mills in the state have reeled from the liquidity crunch due to overproduction. By the end of March, mills in the state reported 112 lt of unsold sugar.
The present season has also seen a battery of efforts by the central government, including the fixing of the minimum selling price (MSP) of sugar first at Rs 2,900 per quintal and then to Rs 3,100 per quintal. But mills did not really gain from these measures and by the end of April 15, mills failed to clear dues worth Rs 4,000 crore. Sources from the sugar commissonerate said the next season will see a substantial dip in the cane area. However, industry sources said chances of any price correction were slim as the mills will have a massive unsold inventory at the beginning of the season. The woes of the state’s sugar industry are far from over.