India is set to record its steepest decline in sugar production in a year in well over a decade this year with production of the commodity registering a 21 per cent dip by March 15.
The sugar harvesting season typically begins in October, peaks in January and starts to wind down by end of March. So far, 21.58 million tonnes of sugar has been produced this year as against 27.36 million tonnes by the same period last year, the Indian Sugar Mills Association said on Tuesday.
The shortfall this year is largely due to significantly lower production in Maharashtra, country's second largest sugar producing state. As on March 15, only 55.85 lakh tonnes of sugar could be produced in the state, down 44.2 per cent over 100.08 lakh tonnes that it had produced by the same time last year. Far fewer number of mills in the state crushed the cane this year-146 against 195 mills last year while it also suffered from a delayed crushing season this year and much lower yield as crops were damaged due to unseasonal rains between October and November last year.
"In the current 2019-20 sugar season 56 mills have already closed their crushing operations in the state and only 90 sugar mills are operating. On the corresponding date in last season 101 mills had closed their operations while 94 mills were in operation. However, the daily rate of crushing in the current season is significantly lower than last year and the mills currently operating will be closing earlier than last year," ISMA said.
The largest sugar producing state in the country, Uttar Pradesh, has so far produced 87.16 lakh tonnes, a 3.6 per cent growth over 84.14 lakh tonnes production by this time last year. The state had started crushing a fortnight earlier this season unlike all other states, which helped it produce additional sugar this year.
Most of the other states have also registered a shortfall in production. In Karnataka, 63 mills have produced 33.35 million tonnes of sugar so far against 42.45 lakh tonnes last year, while in Tamil Nadu the figure is 4.12 lakh tonnes against 5.54 lakh tonnes. In Gujarat, 12 mills have produced 7.78 lakh tonnes this year versus 9.8 lakh tonnes last year, and Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have produced 4 lakh tonnes against 6.5 lakh tonnes last year.
Compared to the start of the crushing season however, states have narrowed the shortfall significantly. At the start of the season in November last year, the production was lower by as much as 64 per cent, which came down to 35 per cent by the end of December.
The 21 per cent deficit of today is in line with ISMA's forecast of a 21.6 per cent decline in production at the start of the year. This would be the steepest fall in a year in over a decade, at about 26 million tonnes for the full year. A record 33.16 million tonnes of sugar was produced in 2018-19.