The 2021-22 SUGAR CANE crushing season in Maharashtra has entered its final stage with just 10 lakh tonnes of cane remaining to be crushed. Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad predicted the season would end the first week of June with no standing canes in any part of the state.
The abundance of cane due to historical yields per hectare in this milling season has stalled the sugar mills in Maharashtra. Instead of the normal 90 tons per hectare, the drought-prone Marathwada region reported more than 120 tons per hectare. Beating all previous estimates, mills across the state crushed 1,312 lakh tonnes of cane on Wednesday, with 146 out of 200 mills completing crushing this season.
Mills in Marathwada, Ahmednagar and parts of Pune continue to operate.
Given the abundance of cane, agricultural leaders have expressed concern that the mills may not be able to complete the grinding before the onset of the monsoon. With the monsoon expected to arrive earlier than usual, farmers and millers worried about the inability to complete the milling in time. Considering the seriousness of the problem, the state government had contracted the services of mechanized cane pickers and also announced a subsidy of Rs 200 per ton for loss of salvage and tonnage due to extreme heat to the millers.
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Gaikwad, while speaking to The Indian Express, said 130 reapers from various parts of the state had been put to work at the mills where cane was in abundance. The districts of Jalna, Osmanabad and Solapur had reported the most acres of unharvested cane. The problem was due to the exceptionally high output and also the low grinding capacity of the mills in the area.
The Office of the Sugar Commissioner had carried out micro-planning of each catchment area to ensure excess cane was diverted to ensure proper crushing. Instead of relying on human pickers, the commissioner’s office relied on mechanized pickers.
The total amount of subsidy to be paid to factories would be Rs 104 crore as the state government had announced that all factories that crushed cane from May 1 would be eligible for the subsidy. This season, the state is said to produce 138 lakh tons of sugar. It would be the highest production ever recorded. Gaikwad said the season would end by the first week of June, with most factories ending their season by then.