Maharashtra: Section of sugar industry hints at higher than expected production levels

Maharashtra’s sugar industry appears divided over the state’s final sugar production figure, with some of the industry hinting at higher than expected production. Millers in Sangli and Kolhapur sugar districts have complained of a 1.25% decline in sugar recovery which they say will severely affect their final production figures.

At the start of the sugar season, Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad’s office had estimated the figure to be around 58 lakh tonnes (lt). This figure was later corrected to 52 liters at the start of the season, as the millers were talking about the cane being diverted for fodder. About 24 factories will produce ethanol while six factories have reported producing ethanol directly from cane juice. According to the millers, this will further reduce the final sugar production figure.

Sangli and Kolhapur mills complained of a 1.25% drop in sugar recovery (ratio of sugar produced to cane crushed, expressed as a percentage). Millers say this is mainly due to floods in August, which destroyed standing crops in about 2 lakh hectares of land in these two districts. The district collector has instructed the mills to harvest the cane from these fields, but the millers have spoken of a loss of salvage if that cane is crushed.

The average recovery of these two districts, which is normally 12.50%, is currently around 11.25%. Senior industry analyst Vijay Autade, however, pointed out that the cane from flood-affected fields is nearly depleted and now cane with better sucrose content will come to the mills. “The long sunny days ensured good cane growth in other parts of the districts. There is a chance that the recovery rate will increase from January,” he said.

However, Rohit Pawar, CEO of Baramati Agro Limited, which operates private sugar factories in Pune and Aurangabad, said the final sugar production figure would be around 60 litres. Another miller said the harvest situation in Satara and Pune is good, with Satara reporting better yields per acre.

“Pune and Satara could provide traction for the season, and the final production figure may be over 60 litres,” Autade said. Maharashtra’s estimates have dropped in the past, especially last year when the state ended up producing an all-time high of 107.2 liters of sweetener. Previously, estimates and final production figures did not agree with each other, which caused problems of abundance or too little in the country.

Rachel J. Bradford