[Answered] Discuss the impact of excess sugar production on India’s agricultural sector and sugarcane farmers. What are the implications of the over-cultivation of sugarcane?

Introduction: Give brief context of recent over production of sugarcane.

Body: What is the impact of excess sugar production on India’s agricultural sector and sugarcane farmers?

Conclusion: Way forward.

Recently according to statistics, India surpassed Brazil in sugar production in 2021-2022. Concerns have been raised over the extensive use of resources in sugar production which are depleting rapidly, leading to a potential crisis in the future. This surge in production is on account of policies and measures taken by the central government in the form of fair and remunerative price (FRP) schemes & various State governments also offering heavy subsidies to incentivise sugarcane cultivation that make farmers favour sugarcane cultivation.

What is the impact of excess sugar production on India’s agricultural sector and sugarcane farmers?

  • Loss of Groundwater: Since sugarcane is a water-intensive crop, over-cultivation can impact groundwater negatively. It leads to water scarcity in regions where water availability is already limited. E.g., Maharashtra.
  • Price fluctuations: The revenue of both sugar manufacturers and farmers may be impacted by excessive sugar production’s ability to cause price changes in the commodity. The market’s ability to make money is harmed when there is an excess of sugar available, as prices tend to fall.
  • Soil degradation: Continuous sugarcane monoculture reduces soil fertility and causes soil degradation in sugarcane fields. Without suitable crop rotation or soil management techniques, continuous sugarcane production has the potential to deplete soil nutrients, degrade soil fertility, and raise the danger of soil erosion.
  • Food Security: Excessive focus on sugarcane cultivation leads to diversion of resources from other crops like food crops, and cereals like millet. This can negatively impact crop diversity and food security.

What efforts have been made to address this issue?

  • Ethanol Production: The Indian government explored using the excess sugar to produce ethanol, by fermenting sugarcane molasses or sugar. Alcoholic beverages contain the substance ethanol, which can also be utilized in the chemical and cosmetics sectors.
  • Ethanol-Blended Petrol (EBP): Under the ethanol blending program, the Indian government diverts excess sugar in the production of ethanol. It is aimed to achieve dual objectives:  to reduce harmful emissions, such as carbon monoxide and various hydrocarbons, from vehicles & to reduce crude oil imports.
  • Financial Support: Centre and state governments can provide financial support in the form of subsidies and grants for a variety of crops that can help farmers diversify as well as distribute cultivation evenly, prevent monocultures, and ensure an equitable income.
  • Sustainable Irrigation Practices: Practices like drip irrigation can address the issue of groundwater depletion. This method reduces water consumption by up to 70% relative to the current flood irrigation method. Groundwater reservoir stress can be reduced by making a concerted effort to embrace cleaner techniques including rainwater collection, wastewater treatment, and canal irrigation networks.

Conclusion:

With these initiatives, farmers will be in a better position to diversify their crop selections, lessen their reliance on sugarcane, and improve the sustainability of their farming operations as a whole. When putting these tactics into practice, it’s crucial to take local factors, market dynamics, and farmer preferences into account.

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