Maharashtra cooperative millers seek to delay crushing to 1 December, 2019

Cooperative sugar millers in Maharashtra have urged state sugar commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad to postpone the crushing season of 2019-20 to December 1, 2019. Millers have put forth this demand before the Commissionerate owing to the damage caused by recent floods in Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and drought situation in Marathwada, Ahmednagar and Solapur which has led to the cane being sold as fodder by farmers.

Maharashtra’s crushing season commences after Diwali which is either first week of October or November every year.

In the representation made to the commissioner, Financial Express reported, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation (MSCSFF) chairman Jayprakash Dandegaonkar said the area under cane had fallen drastically following the floods in Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur where 40-50 lakh tonne has been hit. And, the drought in other parts of the state had led to a sharp fall in recoveries production by another 40-50 lakh tonne, he said.

Last season, mills had crushed 952 lakh tonne of cane and this season according to primary estimates given out by the commissioner, 570 lakh tonne of cane was to be crushed. However, this has further dropped by another 100-odd tonne, which means that some 470-570 lakh tonne of cane may be crushed this season, a drop of 47-48% , he pointed out.

The Commissionerate has extended the last date for crushing licences to September 30 as opposed to the earlier date of August 30 to give factories more time to prepare for crushing.

Maharashtra is slated to commence this season with an opening stock of 52 lakh tonne and had approached the Centre, seeking permission to convert its sugar stocks into ethanol.

Senior officials of the federation said ethanol production at the current rate of Rs 59.48 per litre is not viable for millers and have sought Rs 66 per litre for ethanol and Rs 35 per kg for sugar. Mills normally start crushing operations in the first week of October. Unlike Karnataka, the date of crushing in Maharashtra is decided by the state government.

According to state sugar commissioner’s estimates, total area under sugarcane cultivation in 2018-19 was 11.65 lakh hectares, dropping to 8.43 lakh hectares in 2019-20. At the beginning of monsoon, the Commissionerate had predicted state’s sugar production may drop from 64 lakh tonne to around 52 lakh tonne owing to drought in Marathwada.

However, floods in August destroyed 1.1 lakh hectares of crop in western and southern parts of the state. The Centre’s recent export subsidy of Rs 1,048 per tonne is expected to help sugar industry across the country, including Maharashtra.

Shekhar Ghosh is a communications consultant and and former journalist, who has edited and written for publications such as like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today and Outlook.

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