Sugar mills in Maharashtra will start crushing operations for the 2018-19 season from October 20, a ministerial committee, which met in Mumbai under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, decided on Tuesday.
About 190 sugar mills are expected to take season this year, Minister for Cooperation Subhash Deshmukh told The Indian Express. The state has reported around 1,040 lakh tonnes (lt) of cane production while the estimated sugar production would be around 106-107 lt. Maharashtra has reported around 11 lakh hectares of farm land under cane this season.
Usually, sugar mills start their operations in November, after Diwali, which allows the harvesting labourers to migrate from their villages in Marathwada and north Maharashtra. This year, concerned about the increase in cane area, mills in Marathwada had pressed for an early start to the season. But in the core cane belt of western Maharashtra, mills are likely to start their operations only in November. Sugar mills in Marathwada, Solapur and parts of Pune, on the other hand, may start their operations from October 20.
The present sugar season is starting even as a large amount of sugar stock — 35-40 lt — remains unsold, compared to the 10-15 lt of opening stock in earlier years. The unsold stock, coupled with a bumper crop, has worried the industry, as experts claim that it will be difficult to pay even the minimum Fair and Remunerative Price of Rs 2,750 per tonne for cane, with an average recovery of 10 per cent.
Data available till September 15 shows that mills in the state are yet to clear unpaid dues of Rs 336.15 crore. The sugar commissioner has already issued 27 notices to mills, which have failed to pay the growers, asking them to auction the sugar stock.
During Tuesday’s meeting, representatives of mills asked the state government to match the central government’s grant of Rs 55 per tonne as an export incentive for sugar, said Deshmukh. “They have also asked for transport subsidy of Rs 2,500 per tonne to transport sugar to the ports,” said the minister.
Mills had also suggested production of raw sugar in the first two months of the season and diversion of cane juice directly for Ethanol production.
“A special committee will be formed to study the situation and the state government will make necessary recommendations to the central government,” he said.
Meanwhile, farmer leader and Hathkhanagale MP Raju Shetti will be holding his annual Oosh Parishad on October 27 in Jaysinghpur. An annual event of the farmer’s body, this parishad sees Shetti declaring the first installment payment of cane from the mills. “Without the parishad, the mills will not be allowed to start their season,”said Shetti.