Many farmers attributed the dip in production to lack of water availability. Melur region in Madurai, which is the hub of sugarcane production, used to transport heavy loads of canes to neighbouring districts like Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Coimbatore, Pollachi, besides neighbouring states like Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.
“The Melur sugarcane is much sought after as it grows up to 12 feet, which cannot be found in other places. In addition, Melur canes are less in price and high in quality,” said Malaisamy, a farmer from Ettimangalam village near Melur. Malaisamy recalled that more than 300 loads of sugarcane were sent to other places from his village alone last year, while the volume has shrunk to 40 to 50 loads this season.
“Sugarcane production has dropped by 80 per cent due to which the prices have increased by 75 per cent. A stack of 15 sugarcane, which was priced Rs 200 last year, is now being sold for Rs 350,” added Malaisamy. Usually sugarcane would be cultivated in at least 20 to 25 villages, in and around Melur, but this time only two villages – Ettimangalam and Chettiyarpatti, raised the crop.
Also, in these cultivated areas, crops in many fields have gone dry due to non-availability of water or have shunted growth, rued another farmer Sakthivel. “Sugarcane needs at least 90 days of water, but this year water was supplied only for 19 days,” added Sakthivel.