Maharashtra’s sugar season is nearing its end and only four sugar mills are continuing their crushing operations. With production crossing 107 lakh tonnes, the 2017-18 season has seen the highest production of sugar in the state. Of the 187 mills functional this season, 183 have ceased crushing operations. Two mills in Ahmednagar and one each in Pune and Satara districts are continuing operations. They are expected to close by the end of this month. Till Tuesday, the state has seen crushing of 951.95 lt of cane. This year’s sugar production has crossed the earlier record, made in the 2014-15 season, when the state had seen production of 105.14 lt of sugar.
But the record production has failed to cheer the sugar sector, which is reeling under severe financial crisis. The fall in sugar prices has affected the millers, who have failed to pay the minimal fair and remunerative price (FRP) to the growers. Till April 30, millers in Maharashtra were facing cane arrears worth a whopping Rs 2210.63 crore. While 57 mills have paid 100 per cent of their dues, the rest have only been able to pay parts of it.
Sambhaji Kadu Patil, the state sugar commissioner, had even issued notices against 10 mills, under the Revenue Recovery Code, to confiscate their sugar stock. The international prices of sugar are also not conducive for exports, say millers. Millers are also waiting for the Rs 5.5 per quintal subsidy, announced by the central government to clear cane arrears.
Meanwhile, mills are considering whether to start the next season in October, as the state is likely to see a bumper cane crop over 10.7 lakh hectares of land. For a few months, mills are planning to produce only raw sugar, which has better export potential than refined white sugar. “Unless we are able to reduce production, the price of white sugar will not go up and the vicious cycle of cane arrears will start again,” said a miller from Ahmednagar.