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Sugar bodies to go for satellite-based crop estimation

Ajay Modi  |  New Delhi 

For the first time, the Indian Sugar Mills Association (Isma), along with the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories (NFCSF), is working to gather data on sugarcane acreage and yield with the help of satellite mapping. The process will start for the standing sugarcane crop which will be crushed in the new season beginning October. The two apex sugar bodies will do this every year from now.

In the past, the government output estimates have shown high divergence from the actual output, thereby affected the industry's profitability. Isma and NFCSF have invited proposals from about a dozen such agencies in the country and are in the process of selecting one. They plan to hire an agency with remote-sensing background to gather acreage mapping with satellite images that can be compared and analysed with the field data collected from various sugar mills.

“We are trying to supplement the current estimation system with technology-based assessment of the sugarcane acreage through satellite mapping. This will help the industry to know production data and request the government to take timely policy decisions. All the member mills have agreed to cooperate in the process,” said Abinash Verma, director general, Isma.

Both the apex sugar industry associations have decided to develop a model which is technologically viable for any kind of ground estimation on the sugarcane acreage and yield estimates. The associations will also in future explore the possibility of selling the database to trading houses and international agencies.

The industry associations have felt a need for conducting satellite surveys along with field visits to get the accurate estimates on crop. In the past, satellite-based crop assessment has been tried by some state governments, individual mills and trading houses.

At present, the union agriculture ministry and food ministry compile data on sugarcane production. However, none of the two is backed by technology. While the agriculture ministry relies on data from state agriculture departments, the food ministry depends on feedback from state sugarcane commissioners. Interestingly, at times there is a striking disparity in estimates of both the ministries as well.

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First Published: Wed, August 03 2011. 00:17 IST