Nod for use of molasses stock in ethanol production likely to affect polls in 19 seats | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Nod for use of molasses stock in ethanol production likely to affect polls in 19 seats

May 02, 2024 06:20 AM IST

Government decision to allow sugar mills to use B-heavy molasses for ethanol production impacts 19 Lok Sabha constituencies in Maharashtra, benefiting ruling alliance and sugar industry.

Mumbai: The central government’s recent decision of allowing sugar mills to use their existing stock of B-heavy molasses for ethanol production is likely to have an impact in 19 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state. It will help parties in the ruling alliance – the BJP, NCP and Shiv Sena – pacify restive farmers in the sugar belt but will actually benefit sugar barons and owners of sugar-based agro industries, said political analysts. BJP leader and president of National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories (NFCSF) Harshvardhan Patil, who claimed credit for the decision, claimed it was not politically motivated but conceded it might help the ruling dispensation in the campaign for the remaining phases of polling.

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Sugar factories and related agro industries dominate the economy in around 19 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state which will vote in the remaining five phases, including Baramati, Shirur, Maval, Ahmed Nagar, Shirdi, Nashik, Dindori, Aurangabad, Jalna, Latur, Osmanabad, Beed, Solapur, Madha, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Hatkanangle.

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On December 7, 2023, the central government placed a temporary ban on the production of ethanol using B-heavy molasses to control sugar prices ahead of the Lok Sabha election. The ban was partially lifted a week later on December 14, allowing the diversion of 17 lakh tonne of sugar for ethanol production for the 2023-24 supply year.

Meanwhile, large stockpiles of B-heavy molasses accumulated in sugar factories in the state, especially after untimely rain in January and February provided a boost to

sugar cane production. This inconvenienced sugar barons, affecting their revenue generation. Besides, unrest among farmers in the state created problems for the ruling alliance during the first two phases of polling, as a section of farmers openly spoke against the government.

The aim of the decision allowing sugar factories to divert their existing stock of 6.7 lakh tonne B-heavy molasses worth 2,300 crore for ethanol production is to influence polling in the sugar belt, said senior Kolhapur-based political analyst, Vasant Bhosale. “The decision has been taken with a political motive. But it will serve limited purpose as it would take time to deliver actual benefits of the decision to sugar barons, while farmers will get only indirect benefit. At present ruling alliance will attempt to take a credit for the decision,” said Bhosale.

NFCSF president Harshwardhan Patil, however, denied the decision was politically motivated, but conceded that it may help in the campaign. “People associated with the sugar economy will definitely think about who has helped them by taking this decision. The decision is the result of efforts taken by NFCSF. I, as a president of the NFCSF, wrote to the central government a few months back. I also had a word with union co-operative minister Amit Shah. Now the excise department and oil companies will issue the necessary orders and after that the actual ethanol production will start and sugar factories producing ethanol will earn 2,300 crores by selling it to oil companies,” said Patil. B-heavy molasses cannot be stored for many months, so it was necessary to take the decision, he added.

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