The sugar production in the country has increased significantly in 2018-19 due to increase in acreage and higher yields in the key producing states of Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, a trade body has said. The Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), in its preliminary projections, has pegged the total sugarcane acreage at 54.35 lakh hectares (lh) in the 2018-19 season, which is about 8 percent higher than the previous year. The country’ sugar output for this season starting October is expected to be between 350 and 355 lakh tones (lt) for the 2018-19 season which is about 28-33 lt higher than current season’s 322.5 lt assuming normal rainfall.”
In the state of Uttar Pradesh, the largest producer of sugarcane area covered with the crop is marginally up at 23.40 lh against previous season’s 23.30 lakh hectares. However, according to ISMA, the yields will be better due to high yielding cane variety Co-0238. Thus, sugar production may range between 130 and 135 lt, higher than the previous season’s 120.5 lt. The reason behind good production over the past few years in UP is a new sugarcane variety named Co-0238, developed by the current director of Sugarcane Breeding Institute (SBI) Bakshi Ram. This new variety brought a production revolution in western Uttar Pradesh as it suited the environment of the area. The pattern in sugarcane production cycle saw a sharp decline after two or three years of good production. This pattern changed after the introduction of this new variety which was introduced in 2014 to sugar farmers. Now, the good crop cycle is extended for five years and per hectare production has gone up sharply. In the 2012-13 crushing season, Uttar Pradesh farmers grew cane on 24.24 lh and its mills produced 74.85 lt of sugar. In the current 2017-18 season, the cane area is only 22.99 lh, but production of sugar by UP mills has hit 120.5 lt this season.
In Maharashtra, the cane area is seen up by a fourth at around 11.42 lakh hectares. The sugar production in 2018-19 is, therefore, estimated to be around 110-115 lakh tonnes. The cane area in Karnataka is expected to be about 5.02 lh, while acreage in Tamil Nadu in the 2018-19 season has increased to 2.60 lakh hectares. Sugar output in Karnataka is estimated to be around 44.80 lt and 9 lt in Tamil Nadu.
Sugarcane is a major crop in India with production touching 30 million tonnes by March 2018. The country is the largest producer of sugarcane after Brazil which produces more than double India’s output due to its sheer landmass and better techniques. The sugarcane industry is in distress over the past few years due to overproduction which resulted in a fall in prices. The Government announced Rs 8000 Crore bailout package previous month to cash-starved sugar mills which were unable to pay farmers due to record production and a subsequent sharp fall in sugar prices in the year of 2017-18. The bailout package includes a three-step measure to support the farmers, the first being the creation of buffer stock of 30 LMT (lakh metric tonnes) of sugar worth Rs 1,200 crore for which the money will be directly transferred to the farmers’ accounts. The second step is to use Rs 4,400 crore to increase ethanol production to divert sugarcane away from sugar mills which are unable to dispose of their inventories. The third step of the bailout package is that the government has decided to ensure the minimum selling price of sugar to remain at Rs 29/kg. The comprehensive bailout package by the government will help the sugar farmers to get the fare return of good crops.