The government of Japan, through Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), will be taking trial of a special sugarcane harvester in Maharashtra which aims at solving problems faced by mechanised harvesters in the country. Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said the harvester will be run on a trial basis for two years to carry out necessary changes in it.
Gaikwad said the machine in question is manufactured in Japan and will be imported in India. An agreement with the sugar commissioner, government of Japan, Baramati Krishi Vikas Kendra and the Pune-headquartered Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI) will be inked, which will see the machine being used in Maharashtra followed by feedback on it.
Traditionally, around 5 lakh cane harvesters from districts in Marathwada and North Maharashtra travel to sugar mills to harvest cane. Over the years, mills have faced problems with labour as there have been cases where labourers have failed to turn up even after being paid the advance. Also, during periods of good rainfall, most labourers prefer to work on their own fields than travel all the way to mills for harvesting cane.
Mechanical harvesters have been introduced in India and various state governments have run subsidy schemes to allow mills and farmer groups to buy them. Maharashtra alone has around 350 such machines but not even 1 per cent of cane is harvested using them.
The state government provides 40 per cent or Rs 40 lakh as subsidy for mills or farmer groups to buy such machines. One of the main arguments against the use of harvesters is that they are not suitable for smaller holdings that are prevalent in cane growing areas of India.
Also farmers have complained of soil compacting and destruction of cane stalks which makes ratoon — growing the crop from stubble — difficult. MNCs that have invested in facilities have, however, denied the arguments and talked of customising machines to fit Indian conditions.
“Necessary modifications will be made to the machine to make it ready for Maharashtra,” Gaikwad said. The Junnar-based Vignahar Cooperative Sugar Mill is likely to be selected for the trial run for the next two years.