The lockdown may have spelt doom for most sectors of the economy but for the sugarcane industry it has come with a silver lining. Sugar production in the country topped 268.21 lakh tonnes by the end of May, which was higher than the 265 lakh tonnes that industry body Indian Sugar Mills Association had projected for the current season.
With around 18 sugar mills still crushing sugar, ISMA has now projected sugar production of 270 lakh tonnes for the full season. It is still less than last year's tally by over 18 per cent or nearly 60 lakh tonnes.
The better than expected sugar production was largely in Uttar Pradesh, country's largest sugar producing state, as the lockdown forced gur and khandsari manufacturers in the state to shut operations, which led to the cane instead getting diverted to sugar crushing mills.
"That has resulted in extra sugarcane crushing by the mills in UP and an additional around 5-6 lakh tons of sugar production is expected in the current season, mainly from UP, and from a special season in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, above the previous estimation of 265 lakh tonnes," ISMA said. "UP sugar mills have produced 125.46 lakh tonnes of sugar as on May 31, which is 7.65 lakh tonnes higher than the production of 117.81 lakh tonnes produced by them last year on the corresponding date. Out of 119 mills which operated this year, 105 mills have ended their crushing and only 14 mills continue their operations."
All sugar mills have stopped operations bringing an end to the sugar season in Maharashtra and Karnataka, the two other major sugar producing states in the country. Maharashtra produced 60.98 lakh tonnes of sugar this year which was around 46.2 lakh tonnes lesser than 107.20 lakh tonnes produced in 2018-19. The production in Karnataka was 33.82 lakh tonnes, around 10 lakh tonnes lesser than last year.
"A few mills might operate in the special season commencing July, 2020. Last year during the special season, Karnataka mills had produced 1.05 lakh tonnes of sugar," ISMA said.
In Tamil Nadu, four of the 24 mills in the state are still operational. The state has till May 31, produced 5.78 lakh tonnes, compared with 7.22 lakh tonnes last year. The remaining states of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Odisha have collectively produced 42.17 lakh tonnes of sugar.
ISMA has revised the estimated closing stock of sugar at the end of the season at 115 lakh tonnes against the earlier estimate of 95-100 lakh tonnes. A steep drop in consumption during the lockdown phase when all restaurants and business establishments were shut along with the extended sugar season has led to the upward revision.