Maharashtra sugar mills want to continue crushing during lockdown

The Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation (MSCSFF) is seeking permission from the state government to complete the crushing season of 2019-20, which has reached the last stages, in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown declared by the Centre, top officials of the federation said to the Financial Express.

Some 26 factories in the state are still functional and these need to continue since the season is in its last leg and cannot be stopped in the middle of crushing. The federation is writing to the Maharashtra sugar commissioner to allow the movement of cane within the districts.

As on March 15, only 55.85 lakh tonnes of sugar could be produced in the state, down 44.2% over 100.08 lakh tonnes it had produced during the same period last year. Far fewer number of mills in the state crushed the cane this year – 146 against 195 mills last year, while it also suffered from a delayed crushing season this year and much lower yield as crops were damaged due to unseasonal rains between October and November last year.

As per the latest data available with the state sugar commissioner, mills have crushed 501 lakh tonnes sugarcane to produce 558.49 lakh quintals of sugar. According to the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), the daily rate of crushing in the current season in Maharashtra is significantly lower than last year’s. Also, the mills that are now operating will be closing earlier than last year.

In a letter to the sugar commissioner, the millers have stated that movement in transportation of sugarcane from member farmers to their sugar mills is important in Maharashtra and sought necessary orders are from the commissioner to district collectors and superintendents of police.

A few mills have also applied to the FDA for licence to commence sanitizer production. The Western India Sugar Mills Association has also asked its members to respond to the appeal of the Centre and state government for immediate supply of ethyl alcohol/ ENA/ ethanol to the sanitizer manufacturers on top priority.

All sugar mills having distillery units can start producing sanitizers in bulk as well as retail by complying with the simple formalities for licence from the State Controller of Drugs and State Excise Department. As per market reports, some 10 mills from UP have already applied for licences to manufacture sanitizers.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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