Even as the state is set to start the 2021-22 sugarcane crushing season in a month, mills in Maharashtra continue to hold more than 50 per cent of the unsold sugar stock in the country. Of the 90 lakh tonnes (lt) of opening stock available nationally, 47lt lies with mills in Maharashtra. Given that the state is expected to produce 112 lt of sugar, unsold inventory can once again be an irritant for the sugar industry in Maharashtra.
On Monday, the high-powered ministerial committee headed by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray decided to start the state’s 2021-22 crushing season on October 15. During the meeting, sugar commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said the state is expected to crush 1096 lt of cane and produce 112 lt of sugar. Farmers in the state have taken crop over 12.32 lakh hectares of area, and 10 lakh tonnes of sugar is expected to be diverted for the production of ethanol.
Unlike other sugar-producing states, such as Karnataka, where the industry stakeholders decide on the start of the crushing season, in Maharashtra, it is the prerogative of the state government. Mills that start their operation before that day are liable to pay a fine of Rs 1,000 for each tonne of cane crushed.
As many as 193 mills in Maharashtra are expected to start the season this year. Last season, Maharashtra had crushed 1014 lt of cane and produced 106lt of sugar.
Unsold stock in Maharashtra can be a problem for mills but given the rare bull run in international markets, a slight increase in exports is expected, insiders said. Drought in Brazil had seen Indian sugar gaining traction with millers exporting sugar without the government subsidy also– Around 70 lt of sugar was exported of which 5-10 lt was without subsidy. Maharashtra was given a target of 18 lt of sugar for exports, which the state has met. Projections for the upcoming season talk of exports of around 20 lt of sugar from the state.
Bhairavnath Thombare, president of the Western India Sugar Mills Association (WISMA), said the industry leaders have appealed to their member mills to produce only raw sugar for the first three months. “This will help in exports and also ease the unsold burden on the sector,” he said. Mills should take steps to divert towards ethanol production and ensure they meet the targets set by the government, he added.