Sugar production at state factories at lowest in a decade

According to the Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation (BSFIC), production at state-owned sugar factories is set to hit its lowest point in more than a decade as sugarcane processing fell sharply amid reduced supply .

Farmers did not receive timely support after the government’s belated decision to close six factories that had consistently suffered losses. Thus, they were unable to grow an adequate amount of the crop.

“Because of this, sugar production has declined,” said Md Arifur Rahman Apu, Chairman of BSFIC.

The remaining nine factories are expected to produce 24,900 tonnes of sugar by crushing 442,000 tonnes of cane in this fiscal year, down 49% from 48,133 tonnes and 875,802 tonnes respectively in fiscal 2020- 21, according to BSFIC data.

But production will gradually increase from this year as BSFIC will provide high-yielding seeds invented by the Bangladesh Sugarcrop Research Institute, he added.

Apu went on to say that he expects the factories to be able to break even within the next four years in line with the new recovery roadmap.

In addition, British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATBC) is providing support by sharing its expertise on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), which could help sugar cane growers increase their production.

Sheikh Shabab Ahmed, head of external affairs at BATBC, said the BSFIC had sought his cooperation in this regard.

“We have a long history in contract farming and using GAPs to ensure higher yields in a sustainable way, which BSFIC can apply to growing sugarcane,” he said.

Of all the sugarcane crushed this season, Thakurgaon Sugar Mills Ltd processed about 2,898 tons of sugar by crushing 57,800 tons of sugarcane in just 50 days of operation. However, this is only half of the company’s production level compared to previous levels.

It started processing sugar on December 24 last year with a target of crushing 50,000 tons of cane and concluded production on February 11, said Md Sakhawat Hossain, general manager of the plant. State.

Farmers in the mill’s catchment area supplied 36,826 tons of sugarcane by growing the crop on 3,150 acres of land this season.

Last season, farmers displaced from two state-run sugar mills at Panchagarh and Setabganj in Dinajpur which were closed in the 2020-21 financial year were asked to supply their produce to Thakurgaon Sugar Mills instead.

Thus, Thakurgaon Sugar Mills produced 6,052 tons of sugar by crushing a total of 1.13 lakh tons of sugarcane grown by farmers in the three districts that year.

However, sugar cane cultivation has declined significantly since then as farmers fell into uncertainty after the closure of the two factories.

In the current season, growers in Thakurgaon have grown sugarcane on 3,525 acres of land as of February 13 against the target of 7,000 acres.

The area will increase by about 500 acres as farmers will be able to cultivate sugarcane until the end of February, said Abu Raihan, general manager of agriculture at Thakurgaon Sugar Mills.

Sugarcane farmers in Panchagarh and Setabganj have almost halted cultivation for the closure of their respective mills, sources said.

Rachel J. Bradford