Expected to generate investment of Rs 9,000 crore in the next 4-5 years.
Maharashtra, which contributes nearly a third to India's sugar production, is expected to have an additional investment of close to Rs 9,000 crore in the next four and half years, in the establishment of 92 private sugar mills.
According to the state cooperation department, there are presently 165 cooperative mills and 43 private mills in the state, with a combined capital investment of Rs 20,000 crore.
Rajendra Chavan, sugar commissioner, told Business Standard: "We have cleared the proposals of 92 private sugar mills as per the aerial distance criteria. The proposed mills will not come in a 15 km area of an existing mill. Generally, four and a half years are required for making a mill operational. However, with advanced technologies, a mill can start its operation within a year."
He noted the private mills had selected their project site considering the adequate availability of sugarcane. Of the mills in existence, he said, 164 had participated during the current crushing season, of which 123 were cooperatives and 41 private mills.
A government official, who did not want to be identified, said the state government had decided a decade earlier against permitting any new cooperative mill. There is also a high court order staying approvals for new cooperative mills. "Notwithstanding the state government policy, the Government of India has taken a conscious decision on delicensing of the sugar industry and thereby of private mills. With the private sector bringing in new technologies, professionalism and austerity, the cooperative sector needs to take corrective measures," he added.
On the entry of more mills, a miller from cane-rich western Maharashtra said: "Ultimately, farmers will benefit, as they will get a better price."
Earlier, a committee headed by Shivajirao Deshmukh, former agriculture secretary and current director general of the Vasantdada Sugar Institute, had given a report to the government and the high court that more mills should not be allowed, pending formulation of a detailed master plan. It said the existing cane output of 81 million tonnes was enough to meet the requirement of existing mills.
Amit Deshmukh, founder-chairman of the Vikas cooperative sugar factory in Latur, welcomed the establishment of new mills in the private sector. "The fittest will survive. The private mills will bring in competition and innovative processes," he said.