Even as sugar millers in the state grapple with the crisis in the industry, state ministers skipped the annual general body meeting of the Maharashtra State Co-Operative Sugar Factories Federation, held in Pune on Thursday. During the meeting, the sugar sector, led by former Union agriculture minister and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, listed out its expectations from the state government.
The meeting was attended by senior NCP leaders such as former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, former finance minister Jayant Patil and former minister Rajesh Tope. During the meeting, millers urged the Maharashtra government to take steps similar to those taken by the Uttar Pradesh government, which has announced a Rs 4,500-crore package for the sugar sector.
Pawar spoke about how millers need to improve their yield per hectare, and also divert it towards ethanol production. “In the next two years, 100 per cent of the mills should have ethanol producing plants,” he said.
On Wednesday, the central government had announced a Rs 5,500 crore package for the sector, which includes a production subsidy of Rs 138.8 per tonne for cane growers as well as a distance-based transport subsidy for exporting sugar. Mills located within 100 km from ports are going to receive Rs 1,000 per tonne as subsidy while those located more than 100 km from the ports will receive Rs 2,500 per tonne.
Mills in land-locked states such as Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal will get Rs 3,000 per tonne as transport subsidy. The central government has also set a sugar export target of 50 lakh tonnes this season.
The announcement of the subsidy had led to a dip in international prices of both white and raw sugar. “At the current rate, mills will have to bear a loss of about Rs 4-4.50 per kg in the export markets,” said Prakash Naiknavare, managing director of the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories.
Millers said during the meeting of the ministerial committee held earlier this week, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had promised that if the Uttar Pradesh government announced a subsidy package, the state government would follow suit. Sugar mill representatives said they hoped the “Chief Minister keeps his promise”.
The sugar sector in the state has traditionally been a stronghold of the NCP and Congress leadership. While BJP leaders such as Pankaja Munde, Subhash Deshmukh and state unit president Raosaheb Danve also manage cooperative mills, such party leaders are few and far between.