Eye on polls, Uttar Pradesh makes mills in east crush cane though season long gone -Harish Damodaran

-The Indian Express

While Uttar Pradesh’s sugar belt has post-Independence shifted to the western and central districts, sugar cane still retains political relevance in the four northeastern constituencies that vote in the last phase of polls on May 19.

It is past mid-May, but the sugar mills at Hata, Ramkola, Kaptanganj, Khadda and Siswa Bazar — the first four in Kushinagar and the last in Maharajganj constituency — are still crushing cane that’s dry or even gone stale from the searing summer heat.

“In 2018-19 (the sugar year is from October to September), we operated until April 17. This year, we are yet to shut even after crushing 119.5 lakh quintals (lq), as against 91.54 lq and 59.23 lq in 2017-18 and 2016-17, respectively,” says Karan Singh, executive president of the KK Birla Group’s Avadh Sugar & Energy Ltd that owns the Hata mill.

What he does not state, however, is the reason for mills continuing to crush at this time, when moisture loss in the cane affects juice purity and reduces sugar recovery to hardly 10 per cent. The Hata factory’s average sugar-to-cane recovery has been 12 per cent-plus for the current season.

“They (the BJP-led government) want to ensure that crushing goes on until the last stick of cane remains in farmers’ fields. So, we will have to run at least until the (Lok Sabha) election is over,” says another Kushinagar miller, requesting anonymity.

Undivided Gorakhpur – which included Deoria, Kushinagar and Maharajganj — was once India’s sugar capital. In 1936, it had 23 mills, the highest for any district. That number is today down to eight: five in Kushinagar and one each in Deoria (Pratappur, the country’s first ever mill established in 1903), Maharajganj (Siswa Bazar) and Gorakhpur (Pipraich).

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The Indian Express, 18 May, 2019, https://indianexpress.com/elections/eye-on-polls-uttar-pradesh-makes-mills-in-east-crush-cane-though-season-long-gone-5734477/?pfrom=HP

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