13 April 2022, New Delhi: The mill owned by Natural Sugar and Allied Industries Limited at Osmanabad district’s Kalamb taluka will end up crushing 12.5 lakh tonnes (lt) of cane this season, the highest since it started operations in 2000, said its CMD Bhairavnath B Thombare. In spite of the record crushing amount, the mill will not be able to completely crush the entire 22 lt of cane in its area of operation.
“The rest of the cane is being taken by seven mills in Solapur and like them, we too are racing against time to complete crushing before June. It is almost like our area is inundated with cane… farmers are getting impatient,” exclaimed Thombare.
A sweet revolution is underway in Maharashtra, which has seen the state race past Uttar Pradesh and become the largest producer of sugar in the country. During the current season of 2021-22, the state is crushing the highest amount of cane and producing the highest ever amount of sugar. Till date, Maharashtra has crushed 1194.75 lt of cane and produced 124.75 lt of sugar.
With around 90 lt of cane yet to be crushed, the final amount of sugar produced by Maharashtra may well cross 135 lt, with mills crushing nearly 1300 lt of cane.
Uttar Pradesh, which over the last few seasons had emerged as the sweetener factory of the country, has till date crushed 913 lt of cane and produced 92.33 lt of sugar.
This will be the second consecutive season when Maharashtra has produced more sugar than Uttar Pradesh. Last season, Maharashtra had crushed 995.05 lt of cane and produced 100.50 lt of sugar, while Uttar Pradesh had crushed 901.44 lt of cane and produced 93.75 lt of sugar.
Thombare’s company, which runs another mill in Yavatmal district, is expecting to produce a record high of 2 lt of sugar. “Our area, which is drought-prone, is now overflowing with cane. The current high temperature notwithstanding, the condition of the standing crop is excellent. But we are running against time to ensure all the cane is crushed before the monsoon starts,” he said.
The high amount of sugar production is the result of record per hectare productivity, said Shekhar Gaikwad, state sugar commissioner.
Gaikwad pointed out that as against the 11.3 lakh hectares of cane area in the 2020-21 season, this year, the state has seen a much higher area of 12.3 lakh hectares under the cash crop this season. “The record high per hectare productivity is the secret behind the abundance of cane,” he said.
Other factors, such as two consecutive years of good monsoon and dams being filled to capacity, has helped production further. Even the current extremely harsh summer has not done much damage to the standing cane.
Another interesting fact is that instead of the sugar bowls of Sangli or Kolhapur, drought-prone districts Marathwada and Solapur are leading in terms of cane availability.
This season, while mills in Sangli and Kolhapur have crushed 251.29 lt of cane, mills in Solapur and Osmanabad have crushed 279.31 lt of cane. Of the 90 lt standing cane, more than 80 per cent is in Marathwada.
“Thanks to ample soil moisture for two consecutive years, the true potential of the black cotton soil has now been realised,” explained Thombare.
With the season well into April, only 40 of the 198 mills have ended their operations. Of these, 28 are in Sangli and Kolhapur. Only one mill in Aurangabad Division has ended its season. None of the 27 mills in Nanded Division has ceased operations.
But some farmers are concerned about the delay in crushing. In a recent meeting chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, it was decided that mechanical harvesters from western Maharashtra will be put to work to expedite cane harvesting. As many as 70 such machines will be pressed into action, of which 27 have already reached.