Sugar Institute meeting: Sharad Pawar insists on ethanol production to escape overabundance of sugar, regular change of plant material

The sugar industry should work to increase the diversion to ethanol to escape the sugar glut, which has proven to be a major problem for the sector, the former agriculture minister said on Tuesday. the Union and PCN supremo, Sharad Pawar.

Addressing the annual general meeting of the Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI), based in Pune, Pawar also insisted on the rapid replacement of planting material to help farmers increase their production per hectare.

This was the second year in a row that the meeting has been held online, due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Pawar cited production figures to ask the industry to focus on the diversion to ethanol. Nationally, Pawar said the country will likely produce around 305 lakh tonnes of sugar in 2021-2021, with 34 lakh tonnes of sugar being diverted to ethanol. “Even if we manage to export 60 lakh tonnes of sugar, there would be more than enough sugar in the country,” he said. Maharashtra is expected to produce 112 lakh tonnes of sweetener. “The industry needs to look at ethanol as an important alternative in order to ensure that its economy does not go up in the air,” said Pawar.

The central government has been pushing for the diversion to ethanol for the sugar sector since 2018. A differential pricing system has been introduced for ethanol depending on whether it is produced directly from cane juice / sugar syrup or molasses C. Most factories prefer the production of ethanol from molasses with a high B content because it allows them to extract the sugar from the juice and sell the ethanol at a higher price.

Major sugar producing countries such as Brazil and Australia have factories that can switch between ethanol and sugar depending on the price of the end product. Pawar urged the industry to opt for such hybrid models.

Another area the industry needs to work on is seed replacement, he said. Pawar said ideally every farmer should change their planting material every three years. Unlike other crops, farmers take repeated crops from a single plantation. Called regrowth, the second crop is grown from the stubble of the harvested crop. Most of the time, farmers take four to five regrowths because treated seeds are not readily available.

Pawar lamented that not enough is being done to replace planting material on time. “Sometimes the cane, which is grown for seed, has to be sold as fodder because there is no buyer for it,” he added.

Rachel J. Bradford