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Sweeter prospects for sugar

The sugar industry is suffering a rapid decline in Tamil Nadu. The insistence of the state government on sugar mills to adhere to state-advised cane prices keeps the industry at a severe disadvantage when most other states have agreed to the fair and remuneration price determined by the Centre. Sugar mills in the state have taken the matter to court. The poor performance of the industry over the last couple of years, combined with the difference between the state-advised price and the price offered by the sugar mills has resulted in cane growers’ discontent.  The arrears are estimated around Rs 2000 crore.

Palani G. Periasamy (PGP), President of the South Indian Sugar Mills’ Association (SISMA), points to sugar mills in the state incurring revenue losses of more than Rs 1300 crore in Tamil Nadu over the last three seasons.

The SISMA President talks about the steep decline in the sugar industry in the state: “Tamil Nadu was in the third position in respect of sugarcane production until a few years ago, but it is now relegated to the sixth position. Production of sugar in the state has declined from the peak of 25 lakh tonnes to just 12 lakh tonnes.

PGP referred to the massive employment and regular benefits extended by sugar industry to the rural population. “Right from cane cultivation to cutting cane, transportation, maintenance of vehicles, jobs in the mills and in moving the products out, the sugar industry has been a provider of employment on a significant scale and it contributes to rural prosperity.  People enjoy better incomes, better amenities and improved standards of living. No other industry has such direct impact on the rural economy as the sugar industry,” said PGP.

He also pointed to the Rangarajan Committee that came out with a rational formula protecting the interests of the cane growers and the industry. “It would safeguard the interests of all concerned to implement this sensible policy.” With higher consumer price of sugar and with better monsoon, the prospects for the coming season appear to be bright. PGP expects a 10-15 per cent growth in cane cultivation through the current year.

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