India's sugar production fell 20 per cent to 258.01 lakh tonne in the current marketing year ending September due to lower cane output, while sales plummeted during the last two months because of the lockdown, an industry body said.
Production stood at 321.71 lakh tonne in the corresponding period (October-April) of 2018-19 marketing year.
Sugar sales in March and April declined by 10 lakh tonne because of the imposition of nationwide lockdown to control the coronavirus disease, the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) said.
"Sugar mills across the country have produced 258.01 lakh tonne of sugar between October 1, 2019 and April 30, 2020. This is about 63.70 lakh tonne less than 321.71 lakh tonne produced at the same time last year," ISMA said in a statement.
At present, 90 sugar mills are operating.
ISMA has pegged the country's sugar production to fall at 260 lakh tonne in 2019-20 marketing year (October-September) from around 330 lakh tonne in the previous year.
According to the data, sugar production in Uttar Pradesh stood at 116.52 lakh tonne during the first seven months of the 2019-20 marketing year as against 112.8 lakh tonne in the year-ago period.
Out of 119 mills which operated this year, 44 mills have ended their crushing operations while 75 mills are still running.
"The pace of closure of factories has slowed down a bit during the last fortnight as cane availability has increased for crushing in the current season due to premature closure of most of the gur / khandsari units operating in the State," the statement said.
In Maharashtra, sugar production till April stood at60.67 lakh tonne, compared with 107.15 lakh tonne in the corresponding period of the previous year.
All the operating sugar mills in Karnataka have closed their crushing operations. The production stood at 33.82 lakh tonne in the period under review (October -April) as against 43.25 lakh tonne in the year-ago period.
"As per reports available from mills and ports, about 35 lakh tonne of sugar have moved/dispatched from the mills for export," ISMA said.
The association said that contracts for export of sugar are again being signed, for various destinations, with major quantities being signed for exports to Indonesia and Iran.
"Shipments are also happening and are expected to normalise in the days to come," the statement said.
On domestic sales, ISMA said mills sold 10 lakh tonne more sugar till February of the 2019-20 marketing year.
"Due to lockdown, the sugar sale in March and April, 2020, was lower than what was sold last year, by about 10 lakh tonne, bringing us back to same levels as last year," ISMA said.
The sugar mills have reportedly seen an increase in sugar offtake in the last one week or so of April 2020, it added.
"Further, it is generally expected that sugar demand will increase as soon as the lockdown is withdrawn, especially because of demand from the traders to refill the pipeline, which is almost dry, and also because of the consumption increase coming up due to summer demand for beverages, ice creams, juices etc," the statement said.