India could see a decline in sugar production for 2019-20 as drought conditions in two of the country’s major producing regions is causing big troubles to farmers who are struggling to sow cane.
An output reduction would slash exports from the world’s second biggest sugar producer and help ease pressure on global sugar prices that have depreciated by 15 percent so far this year.
“Many farmers couldn’t plant cane in Maharashtra and Karnataka due to water scarcity. This will reflect in next year’s production,” said Prakash Naiknavare, managing director of the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories Ltd.
Cane is a perennial crop harvested 10 to 16 months after planting. Maharashtra is the country’s second biggest producing region, while Karnataka ranks third.
Naiknavare said India’s sugar yield in the 2019/20 marketing year ahead could slide to 28-29 million tonnes from a forecast 31.5-32 million tonnes for the current marketing year (October-September) released by Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) earlier in October.
The production in Maharashtra is expected to drop 16.7 percent to 7.5 million tonnes in the next year, he added. Maharashtra government has already cut the yield estimate for the current year from 10.5 million tonnes to 10 million tonnes, while the industry traders expect it could be even lower.
The amount of rainfall in Maharashtra during the monsoon season from June to September this year was 23 percent deficient compared to previous normal, while it was 29 percent less during the period in Karnataka.
Maharashtra’s area for planting sugarcane was 25% more than the previous year’s figure, totaling 11.42 lakh hectares.
“Due to less rainfall, farmers will prefer to keep the ratoon crop. Thus, the share of ratoon crop will be much higher than that of the new plantation next year,” said Ramesh Hapse, principal scientist in crop breeding at the Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI) in Pune. As the ratoon crop produces less than the newly planted crop, it will bring down the overall sugarcane production.
Not only water scarcity but a white grub infestation will also curtail output in the next season.
Because of the white grub infestation, many farmers who used to keep a ratoon crop have decided not to retain it this year following agronomists’ advice.
After record output in the previous year, Indian sugar mills were striving hard to export the surplus and asked government’s support for boosting shipment.
A drop in sugar production could lift local prices and prompt government to stop export incentives, a Mumbai-based dealer with a global trading firm said.