Sugar Cane Industry of India Production, Transportation and Pollution

by Mrs Farida Alvi

Due to good rain falls and high nutrient availability, India is the second largest producer of sugar in the world.

During the year 2014-15, the total production was recorded as 362.33 million tonnes whereas in the year 2015-16, the estimate was 352.16 million tonnes. However, on average, India has produced 350 million tonnes of sugar cane per year during the last 10 years.

UP (Uttar Pradesh) is the largest producer of sugarcane as it produces an estimated 150million tonnes of sugarcane, which is 43% of the all-India production. Sugarcane crop is sown in an area of 2.17 million hectares in the state, which amounts to 45% share of all-India sugarcane farming.

Other states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, TamilNadu, Bihar, Bengal, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh are also large contributors.

There are political issues in India on fixing of sugar cane prices and at times there are complaints by the farming lobbies.

Transportation networks for sugar cane are complex, large scale systems and small-scale systems. They are available in a variety of forms such as road, rail and water way networks.

But when a tourist travels in India during the season of crop transportation, they see vehicles loaded with tons of sugar canes on lorries, tractors and bullock carts. Sometimes it is difficult and highly risky to drive on roads during night time causing several accidents.

A sugarcane plant consists of 75-80% stalk, from which juice is extracted to make sugar. The remaining 20-25 per cent consists of leafy material and stalk tops; these are considered sugarcane residue or trash.

The most economical way to rid-off trash is burning. Also, it is the easiest and quickest way to get rid of large volumes of trash. It is less labour-intensive and more preferred by farmers since it does not incuran additional financial burden on farmers as it involves no transportation or disposal costs. Some justify that burning is believed to raise productivityand shortens harvesting time by a couple of days.

On other side, burning contributes to air pollution which causes more than 1,500 premature deaths in India per day; this is more than one death per minute.

India has to seriously looking into this. Hopefully there will be some solution to use million tonnes of trash to convert intovaluable organic matterand improve soil sustainability in the near future.