The double whammy of scanty rainfall and non-payment of cane dues has brought in a massive change by leading to a slight decrease in the areas preserved for sugarcane cultivation in 20 of the 35 districts in the state. Solapur district, with 32 sugar mills, is the most hit, where the area under sugarcane cultivation has come down by 22,367 hectares. The total reduction of such crop areas in the state is 63,457 hectares.
For the last 10 years, there was a growing impetus in preserve the areas under sugarcane cultivation due to strong political patronage of the sugar lobby, assured income from the mills and increasing number of mills. Substantial resources were being diverted to the cultivation of sugarcane as it is a water-intensive crop. This had even caused an imbalance in water distribution in the state.
But with the mills running into cane arrears, drought and uncertainty hovering over the sugar sector in general, farmers are now not too keen on sugarcane cultivation. Deepak Bhosale, Pandharpur head of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), said, “The total cane arrears in the district is around Rs 400 crores and there have been no rainfall for a long time. In view of the uncertainty that looms large over the sugar sector, many have decided not to go for sugarcane cultivation this year,” he said.
Figures show that almost 70 per cent of water resources in the state had been diverted for sugarcane cultivating areas, although it occupies just 9.4 per cent of the total crop area. In water-stressed regions like Solapur, Marathwada, the increase in area for sugarcane cultivation has resulted in severe depletion of the groundwater level, causing acute water crises during summer.
The projected area, for 2015 and 2016, as per the figures released by the sugar commissioner’s office, is 98,6353 hectares and the expected cane yield would be 887.72 lakh tonnes. For the season 2014-15 the area under cane stood at 10.53 lakh hectares and the yield was 930.42 lakh tonnes.