Current scenario of Sugarcane Agriculture and Sugar Industry in India

Production scenario

India is the second largest producer of sugar after Brazil. India’s sugar production during 2013-14 was 24.55 million MT which is expected to increase by 4%to 25.59 million MT in the 2014-15 crushing season. With an estimated opening balance of sugar of around 7.5 million tonnes, as on October 1, 2014 and sugar production as estimated above, there will sufficient sugar to take care of domestic requirement (ISMA, 2014). India’s share in world sugar production was 15.30% in 2012-13 and 15.20% in 2013-14. Sugarcane is grown in 3.0% of the total cultivable area of India, contributing 7.5% gross value of agricultural production. Sugarcane acreage during 2013-14 was 5.01 million hectare which is 13,000 hectare lesser than 2012-13 acreage.

According to the latest estimates released by the Directorate of Economics & Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture (Oct 2014), sugarcane acreage in 2014-15 seasonis 4.87 million hectares.Sugarcane production during 2013-14 was 350.02 million tonnes which is projected lower by 2% at 342.8 million tonnes in 2014-15 sugar season (Oct 14-Sept 15) (Source: DAC’s 1st advance estimate dt 19.9.2014). During 2013-14, Uttar Pradesh holds the largest share in acreage (44.14% of India’s cane area), followed by Maharashtra (19.02%) and Karnataka (8.33%).

These three States together accounted for 71.49% of the cane area of the country. Sugarcane production was the highest in U.P. (38.56% of India’s production), followed by Maharashtra (21.79%), Tamil Nadu (10.85%) and Karnataka (10.02%). Nonetheless, sugar production was the highest in
Maharashtra (32.20% of the total sugar production in the country) than U.P (26.96%) due to high recovery rate in Maharashtra and relatively higher diversion of cane to gur and khandsari production in Uttar Pradesh. Karnataka is the 3rd major contributor of sugar production in India (17.07% of the total sugar output), due to its high recovery and rising profitability of sugarcane in the State.

During the year 2013-14, countries like Philippines, Peru, Ethiopia, Egypt and Guatemala realized >100 tonnes sugarcane yield per hectare. But the average cane yield/ha in India has remained stable at 68.3 t/ha (in 2012-13) to 69.8 t/ha in 2013-14. During 2013-14, sugarcane yield in high productivity zone (>70 t/ha) like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat ranged from 72.1 t/ha to 96.9 t/ha with an average of 82.1 t/ha. The range of cane yield in medium productivity zones (50-70 t/ha) like Haryana, Jharkhand, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Uttarakhand and Bihar was 56.8 t/ha to 73 t/ha with the mean of 65.4 t/ha. In low productivity zones (< 50 t/ha) like Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Chhatisgarh the yield level was 27.3 t/ha to 42.2 t/ha (average=35.6 t/ha).

As in the previous years, the productivity of subtropical States has remained lower (60.3 t/ha) than tropical States (67.9 t/ha). Cane yield in India is higher than our neighbouring countries like Pakistan (46.7 t/ha), Bangladesh (40.5 t/ha), Nepal (45.4 t/ha), Sri Lanka (53.8 t/ha) but lower than Indonesia (74.88 t/ha), Brazil (75.16 t/ha) and Australia (82.4 t/ha).

Countries like Australia has been realizing 12-14% sugar recovery. Brazil, South Africa and United States are obtaining 11-12% recovery as against 10.26% (2013-14) in India.The average recovery percentage in India during the past five years remained static around 10.2 to 10.6.There is a vast difference in the recovery percentage from one State to another and even from factory to factory in a State. The sugar recovery in the high recovery zone (>10%) like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh ranged from 10.64 to 11.42, with an average recovery of 11.05%. In the low recovery zone (<9%), the recovery was 8.18% in Rajasthan and 8.34% in West Bengal and 8.48% in Bihar and the average was 8.49%. This is a great concern for the industry.

In the medium recovery States (9-10%) like Haryana, Jharkhand, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Odissa, Uttarakhand the recovery was 9.22% to 9.88 with an average of 9.47%. The recovery in the subtropical region during 203-14 season was as usual low (8.86%) in comparison to tropical region recovery (9.81%).The cost of sugarcane cultivation in the country is increasing steadily. The total cost of cultivation is worked out to be Rs. 67,396 /ha in Uttarakhand, Rs. 78,549/ha in U.P., Rs.97,411/ha in Karnataka, Rs. 1.11 lakh/ha in Haryana, Rs. 1.24 lakhs/ha in A.P., 1.347 lakh/ha in Tamil Nadu and Rs. 1.47 lakh/ha in Maharashtra.

About 22-25% cost of cultivation goes to harvest and transport alone. The labour cost for harvest has increased from Rs. 225-450 per ton in 2010-11 to Rs. 500 to 650 per ton in 2013-14. Non-availability /scarcity of labour at the time of sugarcane harvesting and planting is a serious problem than labour cost per se. Mechanization is the way forward to reduce the labour cost. High cost of production, low yield of sugarcane, high sugar price and the non-availability of labour for planting, weeding, earthing up, propping and harvest are the major concerns of cane growers in the country.

Industry scenario

There of 702 installed sugar industries in India (43 in public sector, 324 in co-operative sector and 335 in private sector). The number of sugar mills functioned during 2012-13 crushing seasons was 526 but it reduced to 520 during 2013-14 crushing season. Four mills in Maharashtra, two each in A.P. and U.P., one each in Punjab, T.N. and W.B. did not function in 2013-14, but at the same time there were new mill came into operation in Dadra & Nagar Haveli and M.P. (1 each) and Gujarat (2 mills). About 50 million cane growers and 5 lakh workers derive their livelihood from sugar sector.

The annual output of India’s sugar industry is estimated to beRs. 80,000 crores. The domestic requirement of sugar in 2014 was 23 million tonnes and projected requirement in 2030 is 36 million tonnesi.e. 50% higher than the present production. To achieve this target, sugarcane production should reach to 350 million tonnes, productivity should be improved to 90 t/ha and sugar recovery to 11%. The Govt of India has hiked the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) from Rs. 210/q in 2013-14 season to Rs. 220 /q for 2014-15 crushing season linked to a basic recovery rate of 9.5% and premium of Rs. 2.21 per quintal for every 0.1 percentage point increase in recovery above that level.

The SAP declared by the State Govt for 2013-14 crushing season varied from Rs. 240/q in Karnataka, Rs. 265/q in Tamil Nadu, Rs. 275 to 290/q in U.P., Rs. 280 to 295/ q in Punjab and Uttarakhand and Rs. 290-301/q in Haryana. The Central Government has considered the recommendations of Dr. C. Rangarajan Committee on de-regulation of sugar sector and decided to do away with levy obligation on sugar mills for sugar produced after September2012 and dispense with the regulated release mechanism on open market sale of sugar. The recommendations of the Committee relating to Cane Area Reservation, Minimum Distance Criteria and adoption of the Cane Price Formula have been left to the State Governments for adoption and implementation, as considered appropriate by them.

Diversification of sugar industries by-products is needed to keep the industry vibrant and viable. Govt of India has allowed 5% doping of ethanol with Petrol for running motor vehicle. Molasses is the cheapest feedstock for the distilleries. Presently, 152 ethanol plants are attached to sugar mills, with the capacity to produce 7,306 Kilo Lit alcohol /day. Cogeneration using bagasse is viewed as another option. The installed capacity of cogeneration plants in India is 3200 MW/day but the potential worked out to be around 5,000 MW/day. Sugarcane bagasse has comparable fibre properties as that of wood pulp. About 10% of the bagasse bulb has been used as substitute for wood pulp in paper industry in China, South America, Thailand and also in India but increased R&D efforts are needed in this direction.


Varietal scenario

About 30 research stations in India are engaged in sugarcane varietal improvement programme. The ICAR-Sugarcane Breeding Institute at Coimbatore and its Regional Centres in different States of India is playing pivotal role in sugarcane improvement in the country since its inception in 1912. During the period from 1918 to 2013, a total of 520 sugarcane varieties were evolved and released by SBI and other research institutions for commercial cultivation in India. This includes 319 varieties for the subtropical region and 201 varieties for the subtropical states. Varietal scenario in different States of India during the year 2013- 14 is depicted in Fig 1-8. Since 2000-01 a number of sugarcane varieties were released by the ICAR institutes and SAUs.

A partial list of recently released varieties (after 2000-01) are given below. a) New varieties for Tropical States: Co 0218, Co 0403, Co 06027, Co 06030, Co 2000-13, Co 2000-15, Co 91010, Co 92005, Co 94008, Co 94012, Co 99004, CoA 03081 (97A 85), CoA 88081 (84A 125), CoA 99082 (93A 145), CoC (SC) 22, CoC (SC) 23, CoC (SC) 24, CoC 01061, CoC 08336, CoM 0265, CoM 7714, CoM 88121, CoN 85134, CoSnk-004, CoSnk03044, CoSnk 03632, CoSnk 05103, CoSnk 05104, CoV 94101 (86V 96), CoV 95101 (91V 83), CoVC 2003-165, CoVC 99463, VCF 0517. b) New varieties for Subtropical States:- BO 145, BO 146, BO 147, BO 153, Co 0118, Co 0124, Co 0232, Co 0233, Co 0237, Co 0238, Co 05009, Co 05011, Co 98014, CoBln 02173,
CoBln 90006, CoBln 9101, CoBln 9102, CoBln 9103, CoBln 9104, CoBln 9105, CoBln 94063, CoH 110, CoH 119, CoH 128, CoJ 88, CoJ 89, CoLk 94184, CoP 2061, CoP 9702, CoPant 03220, CoPant 90222, CoPant 94211, CoPant 96219, CoPant 97222, CoPant 99214, CoPb 09181 (CoPb 91), CoPk 05191, CoS 03251, CoS 07250, CoS 08272, CoS 96269, CoS 96275, CoS 97261, CoS 98259, CoS 99259, CoSe 00235, CoSe 01235, CoSe 01424, CoSe 01434, CoSe 03234, CoSe 96234, UP 0097 and UP 05125. Various trials conducted under the All India Coordinated Research Programme on newly evolved varieties showing cane yield improvement in the range of 10.31 to 12.50 per cent over the existing standards and quality improvement in the range of 1.56-1.82 per cent sucrose in comparison to the respective group local standards (Table 1). Therefore, these varieties have to be promoted for commercial cultivation in therespective zone

Table 1.Percent improvement of cane yield, sucrose% and CCS yield of newly released varieties over the standard varieties in AICRP (S) trials

Category Cane yield Sucrose (%) CCS yield


Tropical Varieties 10.31 1.82 13.33


Sub-tropical Varieties 12.50 1.56 12.87



In low sugar recovery states like Bihar, U.P. and Uttarakhand special attention is to be given to varietal composition. Among other causes, varietal decline and depletion ofsoil fertility have resulted in yield and low recovery. In Uttarakhandunapproved varieties like Co 1148, CoP 1216, CoP 1215, UP 39, UP 97, CoS 7918, etc have occupied 2.2% of the total cane area. An unpleasant situation in Uttar Pradesh is that a large number of un-approved or rejected varieties are still occupying 15% of the total cane area in the State. Some of the varieties have completed a life span of 20 years and above (Co 1148-completed 51 years in 2013 from its release in 1962, CoS 687 (36 years), BO 91 &CoS 7918 (31 years), CoLk 8102 (22 years) and CoS 91269-completed 20 years). Therefore, there is a need for replacement of such rejectedvarieties through intensive extension activities, supply of seeds of new varieties, etc.


Seed cane scenario

About 11.9% of the total sugarcane production in the country is being utilized for seed and chewing purpose. However, the seed replacement rate either with disease free quality planting materials or with tissue culture materials or with seeds of improved varieties appears to be low. It is another concern today. The normal practice in many parts of the country is to use commercialcrop of sugarcane for seed purpose. Sugarcane is a vegetatively propagated crop. It tends to accumulate diseases very quickly during the course of cultivation. Therefore, quality planting materials assumes importance to sustain yield and soil health. Many sugar mills in South are following the three tier seed nursery programme comprising of primary, secondary ad commercial nurseries but it has to pick up in large way in North.

In the absence of seed nursery programme, the sugar mills can adopt seed village concept, where the entire village is declared as seed village, the quality of seed materials is monitored with the help of scientists from research stations. Sugarcane seed is bulky in nature and different classes of seeds are not maintained. Once in a cycle of 5-6 years, planting materials for seed crop should be drawn from heat treated setts or tissue culture derived cane. The tissue culture techniques particularly the meristem culture combined with virus indexing can be used for multiplication of newly developed varieties andrejuvenation of old varieties which are under cultivation.

At ICAR-SBI, Coimbatore virus indexed tissue culture seedlings and mother culture flask of improved sugarcane varietiesare being produced and distributed to farmers and sugar mills. Bud chip technology is another ways of faster multiplication of seed cane. Productivity related constraints in recent years Some of the biotic and abiotic factors that caused constraints in improving sugarcane productivity in the recent years are listed below.

(1) Drought: In some cane growing states particularly in Tamil nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra, rainfall was either below normal during 2012 and 2013 or the distribution was not even and this coupled with delay in the onset of monsoon during 2014-15 crop season resulted in moderate to severe drought conditions. Five scientific teams from ICARSBI, Coimbatore have surveyed the drought affected sugarcane growing areas in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka ad Maharashtra during July-Aug 2014. Mild to severe drought was observed in the surveyed area.

The sugarcane area was reduced to 22-30% in Mandya and Chamrajnagar districts (Karnataka) and the estimated yield reduction (during the current crop season) in the drought affected field would be 50-60%. In few places in Northern Karnataka, there was total drying of the crop. In North Tamil Nadu, many farmers were unable to irrigate the crop (even through drip) as the irrigation sources were dried. Plant crop of 4-6 month age ratoon crops of 4-5 month were affected in North, West and South Tamil Nadu. Ratoon crop suffered severe setback than plant crop. This may affect the supply of sugarcane for 2014-15 crushing season. Seed crop supply would also be affected.

To mitigate the drought effects on sugarcane, early planting (Nov-Jan), close spacing, higher seed rate, sett treatment in saturated lime solution, drought tolerant varieties such as Co 86032, Co 99004, Co 99006, Co 2001-13, Co 2001-15, Co 0403, Co 91012, Co 96012, Co 96020, Co 97008, CoC 22, CoC 24, CoG5, CoSi 7, CoV 94012, trash mulching, skip or alternate furrow irrigation, surface or subsurface drip, deep trench system of planting, foliar application of urea+potash (twice @ 2.5%) or soil application of additional dose of potash (20 kg/acre) wherever possible, may be adopted. Despite the vagaries of monsoon and deficiency in rains, resulting in lower acreage of sugarcane in 2014-15 crop season, sugar output is estimated to rise by a marginal 4 per cent in the 2014-15 crushing season.

(2) The incidence of pest and diseases: Sugarcane woolly aphid has appeared / re-appeared in parts of Belgaum district, Bhadra canal areas, Cauvery basin in southern Karnataka, parts of Tamil Nadu and Assam. Sporadic incidence of root borer was reported from Punjab and
Haryana. White grub problem was found in parts of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, SouthernKarnataka and Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu. The incidence of yellow leaf disease is continue to be a concern in States like Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka although the yield loss could not be ascertained accurately. During 2014-15 crop season, the incidence of Pokkahboeng was observed not only in subtropical states like Haryana, Punjab, U.P. but also in the tropical states like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

(3) Soil related issues: Cultivation of sugarcane year after year in the same soil will lead to nutritional imbalance. Decrease in soil organic carbon, microbial activity in rhizosphere were reported from Philippines and Brazil. In India, 4.5 to 7.9% loss in cane yield was reported due to soil degradation. Excess nitrogenization (unbalanced application of N alone) is another concern. Micronutrient deficiency particularly Fe, Zn, Mo were reported from Northern Karnataka and parts of Tamil Nadu. In peninsular zone, sugarcane response to Sulphur nutrition was observed. This matter is being investigated to evolve suitable INM packages. Quality of irrigation water is deteriorating and water table depth is also going down. Water quality will influence soil and crop health. Therefore, wherever poor quality irrigation water is available, its suitability for sugarcane, particularly for drip irrigation, must be assessed prior to cultivation of sugarcane.

(4) Intercropping: Several studies have indicated the complementary role of intercropping in
sugarcane.Location specific intercrops have been identified by SAUs and ICAR institutes. Vegetable soybean, black gram, cowpea, ground nut, daincha, sunhemp, etcare suitable for tropical states whereas wheat, potato, green gram, garlic, gram, lentil, sarson, cole vegetable, etcare suitable for subtropical states. Intensive extension efforts are needed to create awareness among farmers regarding intercropping.

(5) Planting methods: Attention has been paid to promote trench planting system in subtropical States and Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative (SSI) method in tropical States. The coverage of SSI method in Tamil Nadu was 4,299 ha in 2013-14. However, trench planting system in the subtropics requires fine tuning.

(5) Mechanization: Several models of sugarcane chopper harvesters have been investigated by research stations and sugar industry both in tropical and subtropical states. The John Deer CH330 and New Holland 4000 plus are working satisfactorily in red or medium black soil with 5’ and 4’ row spacing, respectively in tropical states but may not so in the subtropical States. Wherever, SSI method or wider row spacing is followed, harvester can be engaged on hire basis. The operational cost of mechanical harvest was worked out to be Rs. 115 to 180 per MT in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra (but vary with locations) and th ere was a saving of Rs. 20 to 80 per MT as compared to manual harvesting.


New trend in research

(1) Field testing of drought resistant GM sugarcane was started in South America and Java. Transgenic sugarcane carrying Cry 1Ab gene, genes coding for aprotinin were produced at ICAR-SBI during 2010-11 for resistance against top borer, ESB. But due to ban on field test, field test could not be done. Recently, drought and salinity tolerant genes was incorporated in sugarcane variety and pot experiment is in progress.

(2) Sugarcane is a water intensive crop. The water requirement varies from 1200-1800 mm in subtropical belt to 1600-27000 mm in tropical belt. On an average 25-30 irrigation is required for 10-12 month duration crop. Surface and sub-surface drip irrigation is recommended but it is not picking up on large scale due to high investment and other reasons. At SBI research has been initiated to identify water use efficient sugarcane clones.

(3) The concept of energy plantation in sugarcane is being investigated at ICAR-SBI Coimbatore. Type I and Type II energy canes evolved at SBI are being tested in sugar mill and paper industries in peninsular zone. Type II energy canes were specifically bred for high biomass yield, with high fibre and low sucrose and will be exclusively used for energy generation and production of cellulosic ethanol. The Type I energyhave average sucrose with moderate to high fibre, the juice can be used in distilleries for
direct fermentation and fibre for cogeneration.

(4) The ONGC, India has signed anMoU in October 2013 with Chempolis Ltd, a Finland based biorefining technology company, for a biorefinery project in India.Chempolis and ONGC are targeting production of biofuels in India especially from sugarcane.

(5) In Brazil Petrobras, Brazilian Sugarcane Technology Centre CTC and GraalBiohave been engaged in the development of second generation cellulosic ethanol from sugarcane bagasse.



The ICAR-Sugarcane Breeding Institute has contributed immensely towards the growth and expansion of sugarcane cultivation and sugar industry by developing sugarcane varieties and production-cum-protection technologies. The varieties developed by the institute and in collaboration with the SAUs through the national hybridization garden are occupying more than 95% of the total sugarcane area in the country. With the availability of OMICS technology in the genomics era of modern plant breeding, sugarcane research has undergone rapid transformation. To harness the benefit of the technology linking modern techniques with the conventional breeding is essential in sugarcane to meet the growing demand of sugar in future. The improved technological intervention, mechanization and agronomic practices for sugarcane cultivation along with R&D support for suitable alternative may facilitate
Indian sugar sector with required thrust.



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