India’s attempts at crop diversification are expected to get a boost as the country plans to tap substantially quantities of corn (maize) for producing ethanol for its fuel blending programme, which is expected to mix 20 per cent ethanol with motor spirit by 2025-26.
India would be needing close to 156 lakh tonnes of grains, mainly corn, for meeting its ethanol production target in 2025-26, Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday. This is expected to improve the market for corn in the country, which has been a low-paying crop for farmers.
Besides providing cleaner fuel, 20 per cent ethanol blending is expected to help the country as much as ₹30,000 crore in its crude import bill, said the Department of Food and Public Distribution (DFPD).
As per the plan envisaged, India would be producing a total of over 1,350 crore litres of ethanol for meeting its ethanol blending requirement as well as for other uses by 2025-26. About 666 crore of ethanol would come from grains alone and the rest from sugarcane. In 2020-21 ethanol year (which runs from November 2020 to October 2021), public sector oil marketing companies have contracted for a supply of 323 crore litres of ethanol, which is sufficient for 8.5 per cent blending. World over, corn is used predominantly to produce ethanol with 73 per cent of ethanol coming from it. Sugarcane accounts for the rest.
In addition to ethanol, a corn-based distillery can produce dried distillers’ grains with solubles, which is a protein-rich ingredient of poultry and cattle feed. “Any corn-based distillery that will come up now will also have to have a DDGS plant in-built into the distillery so that not only ethanol gets produced, but also protein-rich DDGS diet for poultry and cattle feed,” said Pandey. As many as 100 such distilleries are expected to come up across the country in the next couple of years.
“Currently India has 280 lakh tonnes of corn production of which only 20 per cent goes for human consumption. About 60 per cent used in cattle feed industry but in the raw form. But DDGS will actually give you a better feed. Another 20 pr cent is used for industrial use,” Pandey said.
Till the time, corn becomes available for ethanol production, the government plans to use rice which it will supply to distilleries at a price of ₹20,000 per tonne. Rice is given as feedstock to maintain the continuity till the time maize becomes available as feedstock, the Food Secretary said. “Economically, broken rice from the market is much cheaper (than FCI rice) and therefore the industry is still going for broken rice as feedstock,” Pandey said.
It is also expected that the sugar mills would be able to divert cane juice, B- and C-heavy molasses sufficient for producing 60 lakh tonnes of sugar for making ethanol by 2025-26, giving the industry a tool to deal with surplus sugar production. According to official data, India has been producing surplus sugar every year since 2010 — barring 2016-17. To help sugar industry deal with this glut, the government has been giving them export subsidies. “But under WTO rules, India will not be able to give such subsidies beyond December 2023,” Pandey said.