Former Union agriculture minister and Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar on Friday said that the time has come to arrive at an acceptable solution for growers and millers to work in a coordinated manner for the development of the sugar sector.
Pawar was delivering the inaugural address at the 2nd International Conference on Sustainability – Innovation & Diversification in Sugar and Allied Industry — organised by the Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI) at Manjari near Pune. He is also the chairman of VSI.
“The central government has undertaken steps for deregulation. However, the sugar industry is still governed by government policies such as fixation of cane price, area reservation, export and import and ethanol blending.
The sugarcane farmer and his well being is of paramount importance in sugar industry,” he said, adding, that the consumer is also equally important.
The central government fixes FRP (fair and remunerative price) for sugarcane which is mandatory but there is no assurance of sugar prices which makes it extremely difficult to ensure timely payments to the growers,
according to Pawar. The price below the level of production costs results in huge sugarcane arrears. Pawar stated that now is the time to arrive at an acceptable solution for growers and millers. The stagnant yield of sugarcane per hectare is around 70 tonne whereas the potential yield is more than 250 tonne per hectare.
Pawar says the average sugar recovery is stagnant at 10.5% whereas it can be improved to 11.5-12% and in this area research organisations will have to play a pro-active role and government will have to encourage researchers to develop varieties with high yield and high sugar content.
A robust mechanism is needed and a need for strong linkages between research institutions, sugar mills and growers for ensuring effective transfer of latest technologies in cane cultivation to enhance productivity is the need of the hour, he says.
Pawar said that the government has encouraged the production of ethanol by giving reasonable price for ethanol. However, industry needs substantial financial assistance for infrastructure to ensure production of ethanol as a major contributor to energy security, he added.
“The estimated demand of sugar in the country by 2025 will be around 300-330 lakh tonne . Taking into consideration the national commitment to food security and requirement of land for food grain crops, there are constraints to increase the area under sugarcane,” he said.
This demand, Pawar feels , can be met by increasing productivity per unit of land and by increasing the sugar recovery. The Indian sugar industry is affected by the phenomenon of cyclicality. Sugarcane cultivation requires assured water. The major area of the country depends on monsoon and the vagaries of monsoon include uncertainty, uneven distribution, and variation in occurrence and dry spells of long durations.
The uncertain behaviour of weather, as a result of climate change has also contributed to occurrence of hazardous pests and diseases, Pawar pointed out. Sustainable irrigation assumes a far greater challenge and all these issues need to be analysed and appropriate measures will have to be taken by the sugar industry to thrive profitably for growers and millers.
Pawar said that around 50 million farmers are engaged in sugarcane cultivation in an area of 50 lakh hectares and the sugar industry has been instrumental in transforming the rural environment by bringing a positive socio-economic change through improvement in rural livelihoods, educational and medical facilities.
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Source: Financial Express