Main article: Sugarcane

Maharashtra, which is producing 1.32 crore tonnes of sugar this year, is facing a severe sugar crisis across the country. Since it is not immediate, the solution must be long-term.

Sugar is a sweet treat for every political party that comes to power at the Center and in these states. In a country like India, high production of sugar leads to many new problems at once, hence it is neglected. In contrast, as sugar production has increased over the past few years, there has been consistent financial assistance to sugarcane farmers and sugar mills, without taking measures to curb it. This is likely to have a severe impact on the entire agricultural system of the country in the near future. This year, sugar production in the country has risen to record levels – 14 per cent more than last year. So far, the country has produced 342 lakh metric tonnes of sugar, while 219 sugar mills are still crushing sugarcane. That means production at the end of the season will be over three and a half million metric tons. It is true that this year sugar exports are likely to get more scope due to the volatile conditions in the world. But if policymakers are satisfied with it, the coming years may be difficult.

This is because Brazil, the world’s largest sugar producer, has given priority to ethanol production this year, while China, the world’s fourth largest producer, has been outraged for a number of reasons. It is linked to the war between Ukraine and Russia. As a result sugar exports are likely to grow this year but that picture is unlikely to remain the same. This is because the cost of sugar production in India is much higher than other countries. In 2017-18, the price of Indian sugar was Rs. 3,580 while the global average price was Rs. 2,080. The government has always been adamant that sugarcane should fetch a good price. As a result, there are disparities in agricultural production and every farmer is following the same crop. On the one hand, while imposing restrictions on sugarcane cultivation, on the other hand, he said that the dual role of politicians is not to give money to farmers from crops other than sugarcane.

In view of the growing energy demand in the country, priority has been given to adding ethanol to petrol. Sugar factories in the country have also made significant progress in the production of ethanol, which can be made from sugarcane manure. This year, sugarcane juice will produce about 74 crore liters of ethanol, while sludge will produce 255 crore liters. This ratio seems to have increased tremendously over the last four years. So, in 2018-19, the ethanol content in fuel was 4.92 per cent, while in 2021-22 it reached 9.82 per cent. India has set a target of 12% ethanol blend in fuel by 2025. However, not all sugar mills in the country are interested in investing in the machinery needed to produce ethanol. Despite India’s growing sugar in the global market, subsidies from the Indian government for sugar exports violated WTO rules and should be prevented from being exported to India, Brazil, Australia and Guatemala. The Government of India stated that the grant was in accordance with WTO regulations. The Government of India is of the view that the findings of the WTO in this regard are impractical and based on false assumptions. As Brazil now prefers to make ethanol with sugar, exports from there will fall and India will benefit.

Maharashtra is the largest sugar producing state in India. At the end of April, we produced 132 lakh tonnes, Uttar Pradesh 99 lakh tonnes, Karnataka 70 lakh tonnes, Gujarat 11.55 lakh tonnes and Tamil Nadu 8 lakh tonnes. Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Odisha together produced 32.36 lakh tonnes of sugar. The number of sugar mills in the state has increased dramatically over the last four decades as politicians and ministers continue to respond to the demands of sugar mills. In 1983-84, there were 67 co-operative and 11 private factories in the state with a total crushing capacity of 1 lakh 37 thousand 350 tons. Today, by 2022, there are a total of 131 cooperative and 115 private, 246 factories across the state with a crushing capacity of six and a half million tons per day. To date 95 factories in the state are producing sugar. The sugar industry in India is in a dilemma due to water availability on the one hand and the dominant market of sugarcane on the other. Although there is a good market for many agricultural products such as essential cereals, its development continues to be neglected. As a result, India has no choice but to import the most widely used cereals and green beans. Despite the global market demand for crops such as onions, prices have plummeted due to irregularities in the export process, leaving farmers in a dilemma. Apart from producing much more sugar than India needs, about 85% of the total production is used for commercial purposes, i.e. only 15% for domestic consumption.

With this in mind, the government should formulate policies to treat sugarcane as a commercial crop. No other agricultural product in the country has such a large commercial use. While providing subsidies to keep farmers happy, the government is still struggling to address the problems posed by natural water use. Sugar has a gold price due to high commercial consumption. With the exception of two years during the corona period, it is mostly used in sugar production in the country. Sugar prices have risen this year due to higher production and higher exports. Leading sugar producing countries Brazil and Thailand have seen their production decline this year. Although this is a golden opportunity for India, experts believe that the food situation in the country will become more critical in the near future if there is no comprehensive discussion on sugar production as well as agricultural production. Sugarcane is in dire need of water conservation. It will also be released if raw sugar is imported and processed and given back to the market instead of giving preference to high water consuming sugarcane. Otherwise the sugarcane crop that politicians dream of is likely to suffer from water scarcity. But more decisions need to be made. Demand for this specialty has grown significantly as a result of recent corporate scandals. This led to a small influx of wheat into government warehouses. Palm oil production is already high in India, which is the largest consumer of edible oils. Its panchayat has grown since Indonesia imposed a ban on exports this year. The real dilemma is how to blend food security, domestic demand, trade-markets and agriculture.

2022-05-09 21:22:22

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