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M’rashtra relies on exports to clear sugar glut

Pune: Maharashtra’s sugar industry is battling a glut in production and the loss of traditional domestic markets to UP, and looking to exports as the lone saviour when sugar in the state is expected to match last year’s record production.

Sugar industry veterans said the fiscal health of a large number of sugar mills in Maharashtra could be at stake as loss of the state’s traditional markets to UP has cut domestic business even as production is heading closer to last year’s record level.

UP emerged as the top sugar producing state in the country overtaking Maharashtra during the past three years. Sanjay Khatal, managing director, Maharashtra Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation, said, “UP has captured our markets in North East and North India. There is no demand for our sugar. Turn around in the annual sugar production of UP, which jumped from an average of about 65 lakh quintal to 120 lakh quintal in past two to three years, has taken away the state’s traditional market of eastern parts of India, North East and some states from north India. Sugar millers from the state complain that UP mills are selling better quality sugar at lower price. Their delivery time is less. Also the buyers find that the quality of sugar bags, which are transported from UP by trucks, is much better than the bags transported by train from sugar mills in Maharashtra.

Maharashtra’s own sugar consumption is only about 24-25 lakh quintal. With production touching 107 lakh quintals in 2017-18 and already adding 96.5 lakh quintals in the ongoing season, the mills are reeling under pressure of excess sugar production. “It’s a serious concern how we put a cap on the sugar production in Maharashtra, which is the lone sufferer of the excess sugar supply in the country. We may have to focus more on sugar exports,” said Khatal. Cumulatively, the state’s sugar mills have paid 73 per cent of the fair and remunerative price to farmers till Feb 28. With one more private sugar mill starting in the state this month, the total number of sugar mills has now increased to 194 and the state government is still trying to revive some sick mills.