The Maharashtra government said on Wednesday it was bringing forward the start of the sugarcane crushing season to November 5, instead of the earlier date of December 1, for 2016-17. The state cabinet took the decision.
Sugar production, the government reiterated, would be no more than five million tonnes, against 8.41 mt in 2015-16. The fall to the lowest level since 2010-11 is also due to a decrease in area under cane production to 633,000 hectares, from 987,000 ha last year (majorly due to drought in many areas). This will result in 49.3 million tonnes of cane for crushing, against 74.3 mt a year before.
About 150 mills (80 cooperative and 70 private) are expected to participate in the coming crushing season, against 177 (99 co-op and 78 private) in 2015-16.
The cabinet decision came after some factories warned a delay in crushing would reduce cane weight, impacting sugar recovery and their finances. Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, a minor party in the ruling coalition, warned that launch of crushing from only December 1 could prompt a shift in cane custom to Karnataka, which will start crushing from November 1.
Bodies representing cane cutters had also pressed for an early beginning, to prop their members' incomes.