Sugar production in Maharashtra is estimated to decline only by 0.5 per cent this year, despite reports of widespread white grub pest infestation in the standing cane crop in parts of drought-hit regions.
Apex sugar trade body All India Sugar Trade Association (AISTA) on Thursday estimated sugar output in Maharashtra at 10.1 million tonnes for the ongoing crushing season 2018-19 compared to 10.7 million tonnes produced the last season. With this, Maharashtra is second top sugar producer in India, after 11.6 million tonnes estimated output in Uttar Pradesh.
“With 10.1 million tonnes of contribution from mills in Maharashtra, we estimate India’s total sugar output this season at 31.5 million tonnes,” said Praful Vithalani, Chairman, AISTA.
AISTA’s national sugar output forecast is marginally higher than 30.7 million tonnes estimated by ISMA.
Apart from fixing the minimum selling price of sugar at Rs 29 a kg, the government has offered transport subsidy to mills of Rs 1,000 a tonne and incentives to cane growers of Rs 138 a tonne. Both measures would cost the government Rs 5,538 crore. Additionally, the government approved export of 5 million tonnes of sugar during the current year (October 2018–September 2019) under minimum indicative export quota (MIEQ).
“Considering the trend of sugar exports, it is expected that mills could be able to export 3–3.5 million tonnes of sugar in 2018-19 against the allocated MIEQ of 5 million tonnes, unless the export quota is backed up by the government with some force or penalty for the sugar mills that are not exporting against their quotas,” said ISMA in a recent statement.
AISTA, however, has forecast India’s sugar exports at 3 million tonnes for the current season as against 3.5 million tonnes by ISMA, against the target given by government to export 5 million tonnes.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra government has warned sugar mills to clear cane arrears within seven days or face action. Under the prevalent law, at least 39 mills out of over 170 in operation spread across the country risk action including seizure of stocks and plant and machinery, as warned by the state government. These mills, according to industry sources, haven't paid anything to farmers despite continuous procurement of cane from them. Dozens of other mills, however, have paid 30-40 per cent of FRP (fair and remunerative price) to cultivators.