Come January and it is the on-set of election season and peak sugarcane crushing time in Uttar Pradesh. While, the poll-related developments take the spotlight in the news, the other big one goes unnoticed. The sugarcane has transformed into the state’s biggest industry under Akhilesh Yadav and that is something we cannot miss out on. In Uttar Pradesh, there are 115 sugar mills being run by 25 lakh cane growers.
In the past, till 2012-13 season, UP famers could barely cover their expenses and in just one year, this took a complete turn. By 2013-14, an area of 72,623 hectares was covered and increased to 1,76,763 hectares which further went up to 4,02,719 hectares in the next two seasons. The average sugar recovery also steadily increased from 9.26 to 9.54 and 10.62 per cent in the following years.
But the leap seen in the current year, beats everything. Sugar crushing, for the type Co 0238, was spread over 7,28,604 hectares. Bakshi Ram, director of Indian Council of Agricultural Research’s Sugarcane Breeding Institute said, “I expect recovery for the whole season (crushing will go on till April-end) to be at par with last year’s. Heavy rains in September, which led to water-logging in the low-lying cane belts of central and eastern UP, may bring down the average to below the originally anticipated 11 per cent”.
Akhilesh Yadav-led Uttar Pradesh is responsible for 1.25%-point increase in average sugar recovery of India. In 2016-17, the farmers are expected to crush about 750 lakh tonnes of cane, which means 9.375 lakh tonne of extra sugar production in the state. And for farmers what this means is, a produce worth Rs. 3,280 crore owning to increased factory price of Rs. 35 per kg. This is the additional revenue that Bakshi Ram’s variety would be contributing to UP mills in this season alone!
The impact on individual mill level is also greater, than ever. For instance, Dwarikesh Sugar Industries Ltd (DSIL), which was among the early promoters of Co 0238. In the 2012-13 season, itself, the company got 1,171 hectares and 323-hectare cane area under its Bundki and Bahadarpur factories in Bijnor district covered under the variety. By 2015-16, these respective acreages had reached 17,503 hectares and 7,649 hectares. This season, Co 0238 has covered 24,509 hectares or nearly 88.5 per cent out of the Bundi mill’s total cane area of 27,714 hectares, with the corresponding figures for Bahadarpur being 13,581 hectares, 51 per cent and 26,672 hectares, respectively.
The Bundki plant’s sugar recovery, which averaged 10.32 per cent in 2012-13, increased to 12.12 per cent in 2015-16, while similarly rising from 10 per cent to 11.77 per cent for the Bahadarpur unit. “The average recovery in this season would be 12.4 per cent at Bundki and 12 per cent for Bahadarpur,” projects S.P. Singh, chief general manager, DSIL.
But mills haven’t been the sole beneficiaries from Co 0238. Farmers have also gained because of the higher yields from this variety. Before Co 0238, the cane varieties cultivated in northern India were all ‘medium-thin’, with the average diameter of each stick at 2-2.25 cm. Co 0238, by contrast, is ‘medium-thick, whose individual cane sticks have a diameter range of 2.5 to 3 cm. While increased thickness confers greater yields, it can, however, also mean reduced sugar recovery. “Breaking this negative correlation was a challenge. What we needed was a medium-thick variety that would give higher yields to growers and simultaneously more sucrose content for mills early in crushing season,” explains Bakshi Ram.
India’s sugar production this season may fall to 210-220 lakh tonnes, compared to 252 lakh tonnes for 2015-16, due to lower output in Maharashtra ( which has fallen from from 85 to 50-51 lakh tonne) and Karnataka (which has fallen from 41 to 23-24 lakh tonne). Uttar Pradesh could, however, see an increase from 68.5 to 78-80 lakh tonne. That, together with higher ex-factory realisations, sugar recoveries, cane yields and SAP, is something the state’s millers and growers certainly wouldn’t mind.
This has been possible due to Akhilesh Yadav ensuring that 2016-17 is truly the ‘Farmer’s Year’ as coined by him during the Budget presentation. High yielding seeds and an increased factory price has led to happiness of millions.