PORI already produces organic potash, phosphate-rich organic manure, organic fertilizers, and pesticides. It has written to the Uttar Pradesh Sugar Mills Association (UPSMA) requesting 1 lakh metric tonnes of incineration ash as raw material for the production of organic potash, bio-fertilizers, and other agricultural inputs.
According to PORI, indigenously produced potash would not only help farmers obtain organic-rich manure at a low cost but would also increase their profits. According to sources in the sugar industry, senior officials of the Haridwar-based institute are in talks with UPSMA about supplying incineration ash for the production of potash muriate (MoP).
“The PORI management has written a letter to UPSMA in this regard, and we will make a decision on the issue soon,” a sugar miller who requested anonymity said. However, PORI representatives did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Sugar mills must have incineration boilers as a pollution control measure, which burn the slop discharged as effluent by the mills’ captive distilleries in an environmentally friendly manner. With some pruning, the ash produced contains 22-28 percent potash, which can be converted into MoP.
“Because of its high potash content, the ash acts as a raw material for MoP, which contains 60% potash,” the official explained, adding that until now, sugar mills sold the ash to local MSMEs in the fertilizer sector, but as demand has grown, larger players have begun to take an interest.
Typically, the ash disposed of by sugar mills is sold individually on a mutually agreed-upon price mechanism based on the ash’s quality. However, as market demand has increased, the role of the association has become more prominent.
Potash derived from molasses is a fertilizer that is already registered in Schedule 1 of the Fertilizer Control Order. However, the product is not widely known.
India imports its entire annual requirement of 5 million metric tonnes of MoP, with Russia and Belarus accounting for nearly 40% of the total. Due to supply disruptions, MoP prices have more than doubled to around $500-600 per MT, compared to imports contracted at $280 per MT until November 2021.
According to an All India Distillers’ Association research paper on potash ash, India has 285 distilleries that produce 27000 lakh litres of alcohol annually. Each litre of alcohol produced yields 0.356 kg of potash ash. As a result, 27,000 lakh litres of alcohol will yield 9.4 lakh MT of potash ash. Using a minimum of 20% potash in ash, the total potash nutrient supply potential is 1.89 lakh MT, which can be used directly for agricultural purposes.