Coronavirus Maharashtra: Lockdown hits sugarcane crushing season

Anvita Srivastava
Friday, 22 May 2020

Like every industry sugar mills in the state also faced the brunt of COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown

Pune: As the sugarcane crushing season in Maharashtra is on the verge of end, 95 per cent of the Fair and Remunerative Prices (FRP) has been cleared by the sugar mills as on May 15.

With only one mill working in Vardha, at present, the crushing season that started on November 22 is most likely to end in a few days. However, like every industry sugar mills in the state also faced the brunt of COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown.

Out of the total payable FRP that is Rs 13,121.69 crore, Rs 12,548.30 is paid while an amount of Rs 604.32 remains due.

As many as 144 sugar mills went on with the crushing season, this year, out of which 95 sugar mills have paid 100 per cent FRP while there are only 10 sugar mills have unpaid dues below 60 per cent.

As on Tuesday, the total sugarcane crushed is 541.18 lakh metric tonne (mt) while the total sugar produced is 60.91 lakh mt with a recovery rate of 11.26 per cent. The sugarcane crushing season is almost completed and at present, there is the only mill in Vardha where the crushing season is going on. Due to the lockdown, this mill was facing the problem of the availability of labourers, hence the crushing was delayed.

However, it will complete the crushing season in two to three days,” said an official from the State Sugar Commissionerate.

From drought to flood which was followed by COVID-19 pandemic, Sugar Mills faced many challenges this crushing season.

Ajit Chowgule, Executive Director of West India Sugar Mills Association (WISMA) said, “This crushing season there were fewer canes as the areas in Marathawada and Vidharbha reduced due to drought and also the floods in Western Maharashtra impacted the cane availability. Secondly, as the season in Maharashtra started late, a lot of labourers went to Karnataka so there was the problem of availability of labourers as well.”

The COVID-19 pandemic also impacted the crushing season and affected the sugar mills. Chowgule said, “With COVID-19 pandemic, we again faced issues of labourers in February as there was lack of cane cutters as they were scared and went to their hometowns.”

The reduction in sugar prices after the lockdown started has also impacted the millers. Chowgule explained, “As the consumption of sugar specifically in various industrial purposes such as sweets, cold drink etc had reduced impacted the sugar prices. The sugar prices in the domestic market which were Rs 3,200 per quintal before lockdown reduced to Rs 3,100 per quintals. Another impact of lockdown on sugar mills was the impact in ethanol blending program as it also has declined.”

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