Pricier cane dampens festive spirit

High rates reflect crisis in sugar growing industry

This Sankranti festival will not be as sweet as last year and is sure to pinch the consumers’ pockets. A pair of sugarcane is selling at Rs 100-120, while last year it cost Rs 80-90.

“Selling sugarcane during the festival and to factories is our only source of income. The rates have increased compared to last year and people are bargaining, but we cannot do anything,” said Dasappa, a farmer and retailer. Much of the sugarcane sold in the City is brought from Mandya, Ramanagar and Mysuru, which is of lesser quality. The sweeter variety is produced more in Belagavi and Bidar, but by the time it is brought to Bengaluru, the juice dries up, said Kariyappa, a retailer.

There has been a 23 per cent reduction in cane production compared to the previous year. Last year, the area under sugarcane cultivation was 5.05-5.10 lakh hectares, but this year it is five lakh hectares. During 2013-14, the yield was 3.83 crore metric tonnes and in 2014-15, it was 4.5 crore metric tonnes. This year, so far it has been only 1.49 crore metric tonnes.

“We are expecting it to increase, but so far it has been less. So, the rates have increased,” said an official from the office of the Commissioner of Cane Development and Director of Sugar department.

Another reason for the increase in prices is import and export factor, department commissioner M K Aiyappa pointed out. He said that now, according to central government rules, 10 per cent of the sugar produced has to be exported and the import duty has increased from 15 per cent to 40 per cent. It is also seen that the juice content in the cane is less because of drought and lack of water during cultivation. This has affected the prices, the officer said.

Kuruburu Shanthakumar, president of the State Sugarcane Growers’ Association, said that the demand is more this festival, but supply less. The number of sugar factories has come down from 65 to 63 and the second generation farmers are not interested in cultivation. They are moving to the cities for different jobs, which has also affected rates.

Farmers are yet to get their dues because of which they are showing less interest in sugarcane cultivation and are shifting to other cash crops, Shanthakumar said.

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