The Centre's push for ethanol seems to have encouraged the sugar factories to increase cane crushing, as 149 mills in Maharashtra have produced 109 lakh quintal sugar within a fortnight of the beginning of the crushing season this year, an official said.
The Centre had, in 2018, allowed sugar mills to produce ethanol directly from sugarcane juice, unlike earlier when there was a restriction on using molasses as a base. Recently, the Union government had decided to allow the use of the old stock of wheat and rice for ethanol production that can be blended with petrol and diesel.
"The mills this year have decided to produce a certain quantity of ethanol to be sold in the domestic market. It means that there will not be any glut of sugar in the market. There will be limited surplus stock of it this year," Maharashtra Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said.
The Centre has floated tenders seeking supply of 350 crore litres of ethanol to be blended with vehicle fuel. So far, sugar mills across the country have expressed willingness to produce 322 crore litres of ethanol.
"It shows the enthusiasm of operators of sugar mills towards ethanol production," B B Thombare, chairman of West Indian Sugar Mill Association, said.
The data shared by his office showed that 149 mills in Maharashtra have crushed 131 lakh tonne sugarcane so far and produced 109 lakh quintal sugar.
The crushing season generally commences mid-November and lasts till March next year.
As per the figures, by the end of the season last year, 147 mills- 79 cooperative and 68 private- had crushed 545.26 lakh tonnes of sugarcane and produced 66.61 lakh tonne sugar.
This year, 79 cooperatives and 70 private mills have started cane crushing and produced 109 lakh quintal sugar from 131 lakh tonne crushing till now, the data showed.
"The cane crushing and sugar production figures will jump in December as more mills join. Once these factories start operations, sugarcane crushing will go up further," Gaikwad said.