In a bid to tackle sugarcane producers’ heavy reliance on monsoon and irrigated water, the Maharashtra government has firmed up a Rs 1,200-crore three-year drip irrigation plan.
Drip irrigation is an irrigation method that saves water by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants.
Sugarcane cultivation in the state is spread over 1 million hectare (ha) of the total 17.3 million ha under crop cultivation, but sugarcane consumes almost 70 per cent of water. There are 202 cooperative sugar factories and 68 private mills in the state.
‘’All sugar factories in the state will have to adopt drip irrigation in the next three years. Funding for the same will be possible from the state and the Central governments,’’ Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan told Business Standard. He said drip irrigation would not only curb the use of irrigated water, but also promote the judicious use of water for cane cultivation.
Chavan on Tuesday discussed at length the drip irrigation plan with the representatives of sugar factories.
An office-bearer of the Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories in Maharashtra, a representative body of over 170 units, said factories were quite keen to shift to drip irrigation. ‘’We explain our stand with regard to getting government subsidy for the same in three years. We are quite hopeful the project will be a success as it will be another reform after the recent partial decontrol of the sugar sector,’’ he added.
According to a government official, sugar factories consume about 1.5-3 lakh litre water per day during the crushing season. According to recent estimates, water requirement from sugarcane plantation to sugar production is 3,500 litre per kg. More importantly, nearly 17 per cent of water from the command area of irrigation project is consumed by sugarcane cultivation alone, compared with two per cent by oil seeds and 4.5 per cent by pulses. “Therefore, the government’s proposal for drip irrigation is quite crucial as the irrigated water can be available for other crops,’’ the official noted.
Meanwhile, the government has revised the sugar output estimates for the crushing season 2013-14. Nearly 63 mt of cane will be available to produce 7.2 mt of sugar by the end of the ensuing crushing season. This was possible due to the satisfactory monsoon, especially in the sugarcane growing areas of the state. Besides, there will be a carry-forward sugar stock of 2.3 mt.