`Crushing factories are working far below capacity’

Aug 21, 2017

MANDYA/BENGALURU/MYSURU: Crushing of sugarcane is well below expectation and no surprise if sugar prices go up or the government turns to imports to meet the demand this year, say industry representatives.

The government run Mysugar factory in Mandya, which used to be one of the leaders, having crushed up to 10 lakh tonne of cane in one year in its peak, has just reopened after two years. The crushing has only began this season and officials at the factory told TOI that so far, it was well below par.

“Only one of our two boilers is working, sugarcane production is low too,” said Rame Gowda, a former managing director of the factory who has now been roped in as adviser.

A few kilometres away , the Pandavapura Co-operative Sugar Factory, remains shut.”There is no work happening here,” said the security incharge, the only person on the premises. Four other factories in the region have shut over the past three years.

Venkatesh Murthy, vicePresident of Bannari Sugar Factory and committee member of the South Indian Sugar Mills Association, said there was no way the demand for sugar would be met domestically this year.

“The government has al ready imported around 5 lakh tonne of sugar this year. The situation in Karnataka, which is the third largest sugar producing state after Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh, is likely to further push sugar prices up,” Murthy said.

He added that the factories -which take stock of the sowing during the season -are expecting only 50% of the average sugarcane this year. “Sugar price has already touched Rs 35 (in the wholesale market), and we expect it to hit Rs 45 to Rs 50 in the absence of timely imports,” he said. In the retail market, sugar costs upwards of Rs 45 a kilo.

“Last year too, crushing was poor with only about 50% having been achieved. The situation was particularly bad in south and central Karnataka,” Murthy said.