31 March 2021, New Delhi, IN: Sugarcane growers in Maharashtra are worried over the standing cane crop in their field with as many as 68 sugar mills having stopped crushing. These farmers have now reached out to mills in Karnataka.
However, with many mills in parts bordering Maharashtra closing operations, the farmers fear whether their canes on their field would be crushed at all. This comes on heals of nearly 188 sugars mills in Maharashtra crushing 951.94 lakh tonnes of sugarcane to produce 993.79 lakh quintals of sugar.
“Mills have to speed up operations to harvest all the sugarcane. A majority of mills in Satara are ensuring that they take all cane for crushing in their zone as elections for director body of mills are on cards in the next few months. Still, the problem of excess cane will prevail,” says Mohan Patil, a farmer from Satara.
In Kolhapur, farmers have already dispatched tonnes of sugarcane to sugar mills in Karnataka. “But now many mills in border areas have closed operations and farmers will have to wait till mills in the district take the cane for crushing,” said PD Chavan, a farmer from Kolhapur. Many mills are speeding up the cane cutting process with harvesting machines. The State government’s warning to impose lockdown, if people fail to follow the stipulated norms to curb Covid-19 spread, has added to their woes. Many cane cutting groups are already on the way back to their hometown.
According to the Indian Sugar Mill Association (ISMA), mills in Marathwada and Ahmednagar regions will start closing soon, while most mills in the sugar belt of Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli regions will continue in April. ISMA has stated that the pace of closure of mills is lower than the last two crushing seasons.
West Indian Sugar Mill Association (WISMA) has assured farmers that all available sugarcane in the State will be crushed. “All operations including harvesting and processing will be completed. Mills will crush all available sugarcane and there will no leftover sugarcane in Maharashtra,” said Ajit Chougule of WISMA.
He added that all sugarcane will be crushed by mills in the State as mills in Karnataka have almost completed crushing season.
However, farmers are not sure if their cane would be lifted by sugar mills. Earlier experiences show that farmers were pushed into distress sale after the cane began drying in the fields.
Sugarcane farming is the source of livelihood for nearly 2.5 crore people in rural Maharashtra. The industry provides direct employment to about 1,65,000 workers, besides over eight lakh workers engaged in harvesting and transport operations every year for six months.