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HomeSustainability and Environmental ImpactSustainabilityISMA seeks Government support for innovations and sustainability initiatives in sugarcane production

ISMA seeks Government support for innovations and sustainability initiatives in sugarcane production

The sugar industry is facing challenges due to drop in sugarcane production caused by uneven monsoon rains due to El-Nino conditions, prompting the need for stabilising measures in vulnerable regions like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu. Strategies such as drip irrigation, water resource augmentation, and mechanised harvesting are vital. Sugarcane, efficient but vulnerable to climate shifts, has experienced cyclic production due to extreme weather.

Despite recent progress, such as improved varieties and agricultural practices, production occasionally falls short, as seen in 2016-17 due to severe drought. To address this and boost sugarcane productivity, an inter-ministerial “Task Force” is proposed, involving relevant departments like the Department of Food and Public Distribution, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Ministry of Rural Development, and Ministry of Petroleum. This initiative aims to benefit millions of cane farmers and workers, ensuring economic gains under the EBP and stabilizing sugar prices for consumers.

Suggested task force objectives

1. Comprehend and effectively utilize Government (Central) sponsored agricultural schemes, including drip irrigation, irrigation source development (like percolation wells, bore wells, water storage ponds), watershed development, and farm mechanization, to enhance sugarcane development and ensure consistent production regardless of weather fluctuations.
2. Continuously increase sugarcane productivity sustainably to meet sugar and ethanol demand while improving farmer incomes.
3. Develop long-term predictable policies to boost ethanol capacity, align sugarcane, sugar, and ethanol prices for timely payments to farmers, and achieve price parity.
4. Swift resolution of operational issues between stakeholders.
5. Provide legislative backing for reserved area policies, incentivizing factories to focus on cane development within their zones.

ISMA said that as both the raw material prices (FRP) and the finished goods/product prices (Sugar/Ethanol) are regulated by the Government, the sugar mills often end up in very challenging financial situations due to uncertainties related to domestic and global market and climate change. Further compared to foodgrains or other essential commodities the price revision of MSP of sugar has not kept pace with the inflation or revisions made in other foodgrains. This puts the industry in a very challenging situation leading to mill closures, loss of gainful employment, sugarcane farmer arrears and serious losses to operating Sugar mills.

The role of sugar mills as a catalyst in sugarcane productivity provides a unique opportunity to involve them as implementation partners for Government schemes such as RKVY, PMKSY, RKVY, etc. and subsidy programs for implementation of drip irrigation in maximum cane areas for realizing effective policy outcomes.

Given the important role played by the sugar mills as the key orchestrator of Sugar Value Chain, ISMA said that the Government should support sugar mills with grants and soft loans for promoting innovation, R&D and developing initiatives for supply chain effectiveness. Special incentives should also be provided for the development of new Climate resilient sugarcane hybrids, use of advanced bio-technologies such as gene editing, precision agriculture, and aligning sugarcane production with the global SDGs.

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