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Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh neck and neck in race for top sugar producer tag

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Maharashtra is expected to produce 105-107 lakh tonne of sugar, while production in UP is expected to touch 105 lakh tonne at the end of the season.

After a gap of nearly five years, Maharashtra has overtaken Uttar Pradesh (UP) in sugar production. The state crossed the 100 lakh tonne-mark by the end of March, as against UP’s 96 lakh tonne.

Maharashtra is expected to produce 105-107 lakh tonne of sugar, while production in UP is expected to touch 105 lakh tonne at the end of the season.

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Industry watchers said the neck-and-neck race could continue for this season and the next as well.

Prakash Naiknavare, MD, National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories, said UP had overtaken Maharashtra because of the Co-0238 cane variety. “This variety was introduced in 2012 and almost the entire sugar sector in UP, especially the private sector, picked it up. Therefore, UP produced more sugar than Maharashtra from 2016-17 till 2019-20,” he said.

“This variety gave UP mills’ better tonnage and more recovery. Moreover, at almost 23 lakh hectares, UP has double the area under cane cultivation than the 10-11 lakh hectares in Maharashtra,” Naiknavare said.

The difference between the states is that UP has many khandsari and gur (jaggery) units and at least 30-40% of cane is diverted, he said, adding that no authentic figures are available since this is an unorganised sector.

Any cane variety does not give results beyond six to eight years and therefore, the production in UP is on the downslide, he said. The crop has become susceptible to red rot and recovery and tonnage has gone down. “The UP government has taken a decision to allow gur factories at a 10 km radius and cane has been diverted for ethanol and khandsari,” he said.

Naiknavare said UP will continue to dominate as the water table in UP is good and its irrigation is through tube wells, unlike Maharashtra, which is dependent on rain.

Maharashtra sugar commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said the state’s production has exceeded that of UP because productivity has gone up to 6-7 tonne per hectare due to good rains in the last couple of seasons. Moreover, the red rot disease is afflicting cane in UP, he said. The commissioner said several grape farmers in Maharashtra are switching to sugar cane due to timely payments to farmers. He said the Maharashtra will continue to exceed in production in the coming season as well.

Abhinash Verma, director general, Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), said that as per ISMA estimates, both UP and Maharashtra are expected to produce around 105 lakh tonne of sugar this season. The diversion of sugar cane towards khandsari and gur is more in UP than in Maharashtra and both states are likely to divert nearly 6.5 lakh tonne of cane towards ethanol production, he said.

By the season-end, both states could either be on a par or have a difference of a couple of tonnes, he said, adding that it will be too early to reach to conclusions regarding cane varieties at this point. This could be an aberration year for UP as there has been pest infestation due to rainwater stagnation in cane fields, he added.

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