The SUGARCANE crushing season of 2021-22 in Maharashtra has entered its last leg with just 10 lakh tonnes of cane remaining to be crushed. Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad predicted that the season would get over by the first week of June with no standing cane in any area of the state.
The abundance of cane due to historic per hectare yields during the present crushing season stumped sugar mills in Maharashtra. Instead of the normal 90 tonnes per hectare, the drought-prone Marathwada region reported more than 120 tonnes per hectare. Beating all previous estimates, the mills in the state crushed 1,312 lakh tonnes of cane as of Wednesday with 146 of the 200 mills ending crushing this season.
Mills in Marathwada, Ahmednagar and some parts of Pune continue to operate.
Given the abundance of cane, farmer leaders expressed fear that mills would not be able to complete crushing before the start of the monsoon. With monsoon expected to arrive earlier than usual, farmers and millers were concerned about the inability to finish crushing on time. Considering the seriousness of the problem, the state government had pressed the services of mechanised cane harvesters and had also announced a subsidy of Rs 200 per tonne for loss of recovery and tonnage due to the extreme heat to the millers.
Gaikwad while speaking to The Indian Express said that 130 harvesters from various parts of the state were pressed into service of the mills where cane was in abundance. Districts of Jalna, Osmanabad, and Solapur had reported the most acres of unharvested cane. The problem was due to the exceptionally high yield and also due to the low crushing capacity of mills in the area.
The sugar commissioner’s office had carried out micro-planning of each catchment area to ensure that excess cane is diverted to ensure proper crushing. Instead of relying on human harvesters, the commissioner’s office had pressed the service of mechanised harvesters.
The total amount of subsidy to be paid to mills would amount to Rs 104 crore as the state government had announced that all mills which have crushing cane from May 1 would be eligible for the subsidy. This season, the state would be producing 138 lakh tonnes of sugar. This would be the highest ever production recorded. Gaikwad said the season would get over by the first week of June with most mills ending their season by then.