Even as the state prepares to kick off the 2021-22 sugarcane crushing season within a month, factories in Maharashtra continue to hold more than 50% of the country’s unsold sugar inventory. Of the 90 lakh tonnes (lt) of opening stock available nationwide, 47 lt are in factories in Maharashtra. As the state is expected to produce 112 lt of sugar, unsold stocks can again be an irritant to the Maharashtra sugar industry.
On Monday, the high-level ministerial committee headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray decided to kick off the state’s 2021-22 grinding season on October 15. During the meeting, Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said the state should crush 1096 lt of cane and produce 112 liters of sugar. Farmers in the state have harvested over 12.32 lakh hectares of land, and 10 lakh tons of sugar are expected to be diverted for ethanol production.
Unlike other sugar producing states, such as Karnataka, where industry players decide when the grinding season begins, in Maharashtra it is the prerogative of the state government. Mills that start their activity before this day are liable to a fine of Rs 1,000 for each tonne of cane crushed.
No less than 193 factories in Maharashtra are expected to start the season this year. Last season, Maharashtra crushed 1,014 liters of cane and produced 106 liters of sugar.
Unsold stocks in Maharashtra can be a problem for factories, but given the rare upward trend in international markets, a slight increase in exports is expected, insiders said. The drought in Brazil had seen Indian sugar gain ground, with millers also exporting sugar without government subsidy. About 70 liters of sugar were exported, of which 5-10 liters were without subsidy. Maharashtra received a target of 18 liters of sugar for exports, which the state has met. Projections for the coming season speak of exports of around 20 liters of sugar from the state.
Bhairavnath Thombare, president of the Western India Sugar Mills Association (WISMA), said industry leaders called on their member factories to produce only raw sugar for the first three months. “This will help exports and also ease the burden of unsold goods on the industry,” he said. Factories should take steps to switch to ethanol production and make sure they meet the targets set by the government, he added.