Kolhapur: Union highways minister Nitin Gadkari on Monday said the sugar industry will stay afloat only if it diversifies into ethanol, power and green hydrogen production.
He was speaking at a function to inaugurate and lay the foundation of several completed road construction projects, and those proposed to connect Solapur district with other districts of the state and neighbouring states.
Gadkari said it makes him happy to see the work done to conserve water in drought-prone Solapur and Sangli districts. However, he warned that farmers would end up in a dire condition if they kept growing sugar cane only for sugar production.
“Solapur district was once drought prone. Someone just said that one mill in the district crushed 22 lakh tonne of sugar cane. Such large quantities of sugar cane is being crushed every season in the district. However, if you continue to grow sugar cane for sugar, then mark my words, time will come to end life,” he said.
He added that a few days back, a delegation from Brazil met him. “Brazil is facing drought, which makes millers here happy. However, if Brazil’s production is restored, surplus sugar will be produced and then the prices of sugar will come down to Rs 22 per kg. The millers can’t bring down sugar cane price as they have to stay in politics.”
Gadkari further suggested that the millers should produce more ethanol from sugar cane syrup. “I have now allowed flex engine in two-wheelers and four-wheelers. In six months from now, vehicles with flex engine will start running in India. They depend on 100% bioethanol. I urge Solapur leaders to ensure all vehicles run on ethanol and ensure petrol consumption is brought down to zero,” said Gadkari.
Gadkari also suggested that the millers should generate green hydrogen fuel from bagasse (fibrous material left after crushing sugar cane) and waste water. He said that green hydrogen fuel will change future of India. “Sugar production is loss making. If millers produce ethanol, power and green hydrogen and expand value chain, only then the sugar industry will stay afloat,” added Gadkari.
Gadkari said that Maharashtra’s sugar production in third largest in the world and he will lay a vision before all stakeholders during his visit to Pune’s Vasantdada Sugar Institute in the first week of May.