Is it really possible to replicate sugar output success in pulses and oilseeds?
India was importing a substantial quantity of sugar until recently to meet the country’s consumption. But commercialization of high yielding sugarcane, especially in Uttar Pradesh, has brought India into a massive surplus.
Data compiled by the Union Ministry of Agriculture showed India’s total cane and sugar output at 306 million tonnes for 2016-17. During the same year, however, industry sources estimate the total sugar production of 23.26 million tonnes.
However, Abhinash Verma, Director General of Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) estimates India’s sugar output at 32.25 million tonnes for the same year. During the current year again, due to expansion in sowing area, the yield is set to touch 384 million tonnes of cane and 35-35.5 million tonnes of sugar output during 2018-19 crushing season.
The growth in output has been so remarkable that we have now started talking whether it is possible to replicate sugar success story in other areas like pulses and edible oils to achieve self reliance in these two sensitive agricultural commodities in which India remains heavily dependent on imports.
Some experts have suggested inter-cropping of oilseeds with other oilseeds in the agricultural land in the North Eastern States as a solution to enhance production. Farmers are being educated about the benefit of high yielding seeds and inter-cropping wherever possible and the experts claim positive results are sure to come in the next couple of years.
The question however is whether these steps alone will lead to enhanced production, on the lines of success achieved in sugar output. It is being asked whether it is really possible to replicate sugar output success in pulses and oilseeds. Abhinash Verma disagrees! The reason being given by him is simple. There is more sugarcane production because the purchase price of sugar cane is much higher than any other crop. A farmer gets 50-60% more remuneration on sowing sugar cane than most other crops. Moreover, sugarcane is a much sturdier crop – it is called the lazy man’s crop – which doesn’t get wasted or killed in case of harsh weather, which is the case with crops like soya or paddy.
Therefore, in order to make farmers sow a particular crop, the purchase price of that crop will have to be increased. This is what according to Verma the real reason for high sugar cane output and consequently high sugar production. Sugar cane has an assured buyer which is not the case with other crops. Farmer has to go to mandis to sell his crop where at most times he does not even get the minimum fixed price. With FRP being assured in case of sugar cane, the farmer is sure he will get the assured price.
Moreover, sugar mills mostly maintain one to one relationship with the farmers growing sugar cane in their area. Some mills like Dhampur Sugar Mills even work in the farmer community and have charitable activities running. This is the actual cause of sugar success story and to replicate it lot much will have to be done than mere inter-cropping of seeds, as some people have begun suggesting.