Sugarcane production plummets in Goa, farmers struggle for decent returns

Hundreds of Sugarcane farmers in Goa are struggling to sell their yield for better price to traders from outside the state as the only Sugar factory of this coastal state has stopped operations for the last three years.

Sanjivani Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana (Sugar Factory) was set up in 1972 by the first Chief Minister of Goa Dayanand Bandodkar at Dharbandora in South Goa. It had an excellent track record at the initial stage with many farmers engaged to take production of this crop.

The sugar factory, however, went into losses in the last one decade or more and three years ago its operations were stopped stating it was not viable to operate. It was told then that after operations are stopped a new plant will be installed, which would also give by-product. However this has not come into reality yet.

According to reports, in 2017-18 around 789.48 ha land was under cultivation, with the engagement of 955 farmers producing 47,503.723 tonnes of sugarcane. In the subsequent year 798.64 ha land was under cultivation with the engagement of 865 farmers, who then produced 33,212.773 tonnes of sugarcane.

In 2020 the government announced to shut the operation of the sugar factory and production dropped to 26,282.61 tonnes, which was cultivated on 664.17 ha with engagement of 784 farmers.

Subsequent to it, Sugarcane farmers lost interest and in 2020-21 the production dropped to mere 31,202.188 ha and the number of farmers came down to 535. Only 431.57 ha of land was cultivated last year.

Many sugarcane farmers speaking to IANS have confirmed that this year too that the production will drop as the farmers have lost interest and many of them have started to grow vegetables in their fields.

The president of Goa Us Utpadan Sanghatana (Sugarcane Producers association) Rajendra Desai told IANS that due to the closure of sugar factory they are not getting a good rate for their crop.

“We are not getting a good rate. They (traders/contractors) ask for a cheaper rate. Traders have come to know the situation we are going through,” Desai said.

“We want the sugar factory to start again as many families are dependent on production of sugarcane and we don’t have any other option,” he said.

He said that after the operations at the sugar factory were shut, the government took responsibility to deal their sugarcane with traders, but for only one year.

“Government helped us for only one year to deal with traders or sugar factories from neighboring states to purchase our sugarcane. Now in the last two years we are struggling to sell the produce,” he said.

According to him Sugarcane cultivation is done in Sanguem, Quepem, Canacona, Dharbandora, Sattari, Bicholim and Pernem Talukas.

Sanguem, in South Goa, has maximum area under cultivation, which gives major production. Some farmers from Sanguem told that last year contractors lifted their produce assuring to give Rs 600 per tonne, however they are still not paid.

“We do hard work to cultivate sugarcane in our fields. But last year we felt cheated as contractors took advantage of our situation. Had the sugar factory not stopped the production, we would have not faced such hardship to get a good rate,” farmer on condition of anonymity said.

In a bid to bring the loss-making factory in profit, late Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar in 2017 had advocated need to take by-product out of sugarcane

While telling the basic principle of the Sugar factory that if it (sugar) is established as a by-product the factory will run best, Parrikar had said that there is need to generate ethanol, alcohol, biomass, biogas from sugarcane waste.

He had asked the officials, then, to prepare a financial roadmap and to prepare points how this factory will come in profit.

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari during the Assembly election campaign in 2017 had stressed the need to generate fuel from farm products. He had said that the alternate fuel can be generated from rice straw, wheat straw, cotton straw and used sugarcane waste. This had given hope to sugarcane farmers that the factory will grow and they will get good opportunities to sell their produce.

“We have to generate ethanol, alcohol, biomass, and biogas from sugarcane waste. For this I have asked for a detailed report. I want to address financial and production problems and have to ponder on which requirement we can convert positivity by ensuring generation of all products. Only after getting the detail report I will take decision.” Parrikar had said.

Sugar Factory in Goa used to produce around 1300 bags of 50 kg sugar annually by procuring around 70,000 tonne sugarcane from the neighboring states and from local farmers which used to produce around 50,000 tonne.

According to sources, in 1990-91 around 1.5 metric tonne sugarcane was harvested in the state. But in recent years the production has dropped.

Narendra Sawaikar, chairman of Sugarcane Farmers Facilitation Committee and former MP, speaking to IANS said that Request for Quotation (RFQ) has been invited to set up an ethanol production plant at Dharbandora. “After this whole procedure gets complete, we will come to know the exact picture,” he said.

20221030-092202

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