Ten years ago, when Dada Jadhav decided to switch from sugar cane to growing grapes on his two-hectare land, he hoped to make nice money. In the initial phase, he invested about 6 lahs in raising the infrastructure, including drip irrigation. However, the grapes never became sweet to him. Growing costs have risen and in recent years irregular weather and off-season rains have regularly damaged its yield. Pesticide and labor costs have almost doubled, and the locks and restrictions caused by Covid-19 have completely crippled Dada.
Last week, he cut down a vineyard and sold iron wires, cement poles and other material used to grow grapes and re-prepare the ground for sugar cane. “True, sugar cane is a culture of a lazy man. You sow it and then harvest it without a lot of intakes like fertilizers and pesticides. But this crop will save small farmers in times of crisis, “says Dada.
“There are many small farmers who have stopped growing grapes and are turning to sugar cane. Grape growing has become expensive. Skilled workers ask for 500 JPY a day, and pesticide prices are not available. Many have tried raisins, but there is no market. Now the state government is coming out with restrictions again and we are not able to afford any loss, ”adds Bharat Patil, a farmer from Miraj. Patil also shed his creeping grapes.
Overeating in raisin production
Maharashtra ranks first in grape production, accounting for more than 81.22 percent of total production and the highest productivity in the country, while in sugar cane cultivation the state is followed by Uttar Pradesh.
Farmers in Mira say they have not even recovered production costs in the last two seasons, and last year was disastrous due to the blockades, which toppled market demand. Those who have turned to raisins face higher losses as raisins worth 900 kroner are stuck in cold stores in Sangli, one of Maharashtra’s prominent grape-producing districts. Raisin production in the state doubled last year as farmers who were unable to bring their grapes to market due to the blockade turned to raisin production. The estimated raisin production in Maharashtra has risen to about 2.5 lakh tonnes (lt) from the average annual production of 1.80 lt.
More sugar cane is coming
“It seems that this season will be stuck in Covid-19 again. Small grape cultivators that sell their products on the domestic market are now completely broken. I can’t afford any losses, so there will be many who would turn to sugar cane cultivation. This will result in another record sugar cane season, ”said agricultural researcher Sominath Gholwe.
Sugar mills in Maharashtra have crushed about 961 lakh tonnes of sugar cane this season, the highest in the country’s history, and the sugar season continues. According to the Indian Sugar Association (ISMA), the net area of Maharashtra reeds increased by about 48 percent in the 2020-21 sugar season. In contrast to the net cane area of 7.76 lakh ha in 2019-20, the area of sugar cane is about 11.48 lakh ha in 2020-21.