Sugar production Maharashtra is forecast to drop by some 30% in 2016/17. This is driven by persistent drought and dams supplying water for cane irrigation are running at critically low level.
Forecasts suggest that sugar output will drop from 8.5 million tonnes in 2015-16 to just around 5.5 million to 6.0 million tonnes in 2016-17. A decline which ranges from 29% to 35%, officials say. The state’s federation of cooperative sugar factories places the decline slightly lower, expecting an output of between 6.2 million and 6.7 million tonnes. In 2014-15, which was a drought year, the state saw its highest ever sugar production at 10.5 million tonnes.
The sugarcane planting season stretches from June to February. Typically around 600,000 hectares of new cane is planted during these months. However, in 2015/16, cane acreage dropped to less than 300,000 hectares.
A final estimate of the crop acreage will be clear by June. Besides the plant crop, ratooned cane accounts for 45% of the total crop. State sugar commissioner Vipin Sharma said pre-seasonal showers were hoped for to give ratooned crops a lift.
The steepest decline in cane acreage has been in the Marathwada region, which was worst hit by the drought. Despite being a historically arid region, Marathwada cultivates as much as 20% of the crop and has 70 sugar factories. The parched district of Solapur in the sugar belt of western Maharashtra also reported a major drop in cane acreage, besides Pune and Ahmednagar.
Only 177 of Maharashtra’s 236 sugar factories operated last season, and the number could drop this year if forecasts are accurate. “Sugar factories will face heavy losses with the fall in cane. Some will face closures and lay-offs,” said Sanjeev Babar, managing director of the Maharashtra cooperative sugar factories federation.
International Sugar Journal