Sugar production in the country has registered a decline of 20 per cent at 24.7 million tonnes as of April 15, as the season that started on a bleak note last October, nears its end.
In November, sugar production was lower in the country by over 64 per cent as unseasonal rain and floods had damaged crops in the south and western regions of the country. Industry body Indian Sugar Mills Association had then predicted 21.6 per cent decline in production, the steepest in a year in over a decade.
As on April 15, only 129 sugar mills were operational compared to 172 mills at the same time last year. The sector classified as one of the essential services is not affected by the lockdown in view of the spread of coronavirus pandemic all over the country.
In Uttar Pradesh, the largest sugar producing state in the country, mills have produced 108.25 lakh tonnes of sugar as compared to 105.55 lakh tonnes produced at the same time in the last season. Out of 119 sugar mills, 21 sugar mills have stopped crushing operations and 98 were in operations this year, compared to 103 mills last year.
"It is learnt that several gur /khandsari manufacturing units in the state have closed their operations, thereby indirectly increasing the cane availability to the sugar mills for crushing in the current season by a few lakh tonnes of sugarcane," ISMA said in a statement.
In Maharashtra, production stood at 60.12 lakh tonnes, compared with 106.71 lakh tonnes last year. Around 136 mills have already closed their crushing operations in the state and only 10 sugar mills are operating. In Karnataka, 63 sugar mills produced 33.82 lakh tonnes of sugar and none of them are operational anymore.
While crushing at the mills has not been impacted, ISMA said sugar sale/despatches have been affected due to the country wide lockdown and consequent closure of restaurants, malls, movie halls, etc., which in turn has impacted the demand for sugar sweetened products like ice cream, beverages, juices, confectioneries, sweets etc.
"It is generally expected that the domestic pipeline, which usually holds 10-15 lakh tons of sugar, has dried up during the lockdown, when sugar in the pipeline got used up. Hence, as soon as the lockdown is lifted, there can be an increase in sugar demand, especially from the bulk consumers when their operations start resuming," it said.