As India increasingly diverts sugar, rice and maize for production of ethanol, the industry says that the policy will help take care of excess stocks and will not affect the food production.While speaking at a webinar on sugar production organised by industry body Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), Union Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said, “We have diverted 2 million tonnes of sugar to ethanol in the 2020-21 sugar year that ended on September 30 and hope to divert 3.5 million tonnes of sugar to ethanol in 2021-22 sugar season that began Ocober 1. By 2025, we will achieve mandatory 20% blending.”

Pandey added, “Now we are going a step forward and will use 165 lakh tonnes or almost 17 million tonnes of foodgrains for ethanol production. Currently we have stock of 90 million tonnes of foodgrain with us.”

Answering a query about whether this diversion of foodgrain will lead to food versus fuel debate especially during a drought year asked at the webinar, AbinashVerma, director general, ISMA said, “Sugarcane is already produced in India in large quantity and the surplus is diverted to producing ethanol. We are not producing more sugarcane for ethanol. The acreage planted under sugarcane has been stable between 5.1 million hectare to 5.4 million hectare during the past decade depending upon weather.” He said that the excess sugarcane has become available mostly due to the new high yielding varieties.


Speaking about other gains, Verma said, “In the case of corn, India has an opportunity to increase the per hectare production of corn to 5 tonnes to 6 tonnes per hectare, which is the global average, from the existing 3 tonnes per hectare. The Food Corporation of India is overburdened with surplus stock of rice, which can get a fine outlet and give good returns to the farmers.”

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