MAHARASHTRA IS expecting another bumper sugar production season with a record number of mills starting their operations for the upcoming season of 2020-21. Estimates show that the state’s sugar production figures is likely to be around 92 to 100 lakh tonnes (lt) with around 190 mills likely to undertake crushing operations.
The drought in 2018 cast a shadow on the crushing season of 2019-20 with the state recording a crushing of 545.26 lt and producing 61.61 lt of sugar. Majority of the mills in drought-hit Marathwada and Ahmednagar remained closed due to paucity of cane. In the usually cane rich districts of Kolhapur and Sangli, flash floods affected planted cane. The 2019-20 season was to be a correction year after bumper production in 2017-18 and 2018-19, in which production figures clocked over 109 lt.
There was an increase in cane area for farmers due to ample rain last year. Estimates by the sugar commissioner’s office show that 825 lt of cane will be available for crushing and by taking the previous season’s average recovery of 11.3 per cent, sugar production is slated to be around 93.22 lt. On the other hand, the Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation has estimated that the state would report 900 lt of crushing and production of 101 lt of sugar.
Unlike Uttar Pradesh, the state’s cane crop fluctuates between bumper and lean. Solapur, Ahmednagar, and districts of Marathwada, which alone account for 40 per cent cane produced, often see drastic dip in their area as farmers go for cane only when there is ample water either in reservoirs or their wells. Thus, last year’s rain has led to good plantation of cane in these areas and all mills will take season.
The state minister for cooperation had earlier indicated that the crushing season is likely to start on October 15. The Covid-19 pandemic is expected to affect the crushing season. Movement of harvesting labour from Marathwada to mills in western Maharashtra, which marks the start of the season, is expected to be a problem for mills. Another major worry for the cooperative sector is the availability of finances from banks. Sanjay Khatal, managing director of the federation, said some cooperative banks had started disbursing loans under the Aatmanirbhar scheme. Also, the question of extending bank guarantee to financially weak cooperative mills is expected to come to a conclusion in a week or so, he added.
On Thursday, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar held a meeting with concerned ministers and a final decision in this regard was expected soon.
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