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Why Maharashtra Farmers are Ditching Grapes and Turning Back to Sugarcane: The Inside Story

Shipra Singh
Shipra Singh
Lush sugarcane field

There was a time, around 10 years ago, when a wave of grape cultivation had gripped Maharashtra. Farmers ditched sugarcane and turned to grapes in huge numbers. Today, the situation is just the opposite. Farmers are ditching grape farming and turning back to sugarcane cultivation.  

Reason for switching from grapes to sugarcane 

Grape cultivation is now costly in Maharashtra. Grape vines require a lot of care and maintenance, plus high amount of pesticides, not mentioning the labor and infrastructure required to set up a grape vineyard. Skilled labourers demand no less than Rs. 500 per day. Prices of pesticides are high. Many farmers tried raisin production, but Maharashtra still doesn’t have an impressive market in this.  

To add fuel to the fire is the second Covid-19 wave that has brought the possibility of lockdown and has become a threat to grape growers. Already their cost of production is high. Now, they cannot afford any losses. That’s why they are turning to their “old friend” sugarcane.  

According to a farmer, sugarcane is a crop for the lazy man. By this, he means that sugarcane does not demand constant care and monitoring. You sow sugarcane and then you can go and relax. You only come back to harvest. Sugarcane does not need much pesticides and fertilizers.  

So, now you can find an increasing number of farmers saying goodbye to grapes and welcoming sugarcane back into their lives.  

For those interested in grape cultivation, know how to grow grapes in India.  

Raisins

Why raisin is not the solution for Maharashtra farmers 

Maharashtra is witnessing a glut in production of raisins. According to farmers in Miraj, they are unable to recover their production cost for the past two seasons. Last year was catastrophic due to Covid-19 lockdown. Farmers who chose raisin production faced losses because raisins worth a staggering Rs. 900 crores were jammed in cold storages of Sangli, which is one of the most prominent districts of Maharashtra for grape production.  

Last year saw a double in raisin production, as farmers who could not take their grape produce to market during the lockdown switched to raisin production. The estimated production of raisin in the state has increased to around 2.5 lakh tonnes from the average yearly production of 1.80 lakh tonnes.  

Due to the sudden increase in raisin production, farmers may find it hard to fetch a good price and raisin may not give them the desired solution. Besides, small grape growers are broken. In the wake of this situation, farmers are choosing the safer bet, which is, at present, sugarcane cultivation.  

Sugarcanes ready for the market
Sugarcanes ready for the market

And now it’s a glut of sugarcane!  

With an increasing number of farmers growing sugarcane in the state, there is a glut of canes. This has compelled farmers in South Maharashtra to send their canes for crushing to Karnataka. This has been happening since a few years and this year, it’s going to be more. Farmers of Kolhapur and Sangli districts now rely on Karnataka mills for crushing their canes.  

One of the farmers of Satara informs that no cane is left uncrushed in Maharashtra and that’s one of the major attractions of sugarcane cultivation in the state. This crop guarantees a return to farmers. The FRP (Fair and Remunerative Price) in Maharashtra is fixed. Farmers here have a strong organization. Both things assure farmers timely payment.  

What is FRP 

Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) is the minimum price that farmers will get by selling sugarcane to sugar mills. The Commission of Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP) recommends the price and FRP is based on it. The price is fixed under Sugarcane Control Order.  

Sugar mill

Sugarcane is great as ratoon crop too 

Normal sugarcane crop gives farmers 1.18 times return. When they take ratoon crop, farmers easily get 2.8 times the return on their investment. Ratoon crop means the farmers harvest crop in a manner that they leave the roots of the crop intact while cutting the stems. The roots again grow into another crop.  

According to a statement by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, sugarcane growers get an average net return, which is 10 times that from gram (chana) and cotton put together.  

As per latest reports, Maharashtra sugar mills have crushed around 961 lakh tonnes of sugarcane this season. This is the highest quantity ever crushed in the history of Maharashtra. The sugar season continues in the state. The Indian Sugar Mills Association, the net cane area of the state has increased by around 48% in the sugar season of 2020-21.  

It’s raining canes in Maharashtra!  

Know more about suitable sugarcane varieties

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