Floods in several parts of the state have wreaked havoc and destroyed standing crops. But the rains might just be favourable for the sugarcane crops and help bail out the ailing sugar cooperatives.
Sugar barons in the state are expecting a bumper sugarcane produce in the forthcoming season. “We hope to produce nearly 630 lakh tonnes of sugarcane for the next crushing season,” said Prakash Naiknavare, managing director of Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories, an apex body of cooperative sugar factories.
The state’s agriculture department is in the process of assessing the crop damage due to excessive rainfall. But Naiknavare said preliminary reports reveal that only 5 per cent of sugarcane production has been affected.
Experts in the sugar industry said sugarcane crops get damaged only if it is completely submerged in water. In the floods, only one fourth of sugarcane plant was under water, which is beneficial for it. This was observed in districts such as Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur. Sources in the sugar industry were certain that there will be a record production of sugar in the state this year.
In the current crushing season, 132 cooperative sugar factories have crushed more than 450 lakh tonnes of sugarcane. Last season, sugar factories crushed only 181 lakh tonnes of cane because of the drought. The 570 lakh tonnes of sugarcane crushed in 2001 is the highest so far.
Ratnakar Mahajan, executive chairman of Maharashtra State Planning Board, preferred to wait and watch. “The picture will only be clear after the entire situation is assessed,” he said.
Mahajan, who grows sugarcane on his field on the banks of the Bhima, added that whether flooding is good for the crop depends on the field’s location. “If the field is fed by a river swollen with water discharged from a dam, then the crop is likely to be affected,” he said.
Agriculture Commissioner Krishna Lavekar told Hindustan Times that his officials have fanned out across the state to check the crop damage due to floods. “Standing crop on nearly 2.25 lakh hectares in the state is likely to have been destroyed,” Lavekar said. The final report is expected in a few days.
Meanwhile, sources in the agriculture commissioner’s office said the kharif crop, particularly vegetables, jowar, bajra, rice and pulses have been affected due to the floods.