Private sugar mills outnumber sugar cooperatives in Maharashtra.

Maharashtra, the birthplace of India’s cooperative sugar movement, saw remarkable changes in the dynamics of sugar mills during this period. Traditionally, cooperative factories were influential, symbolizing a cooperative and community-oriented approach to sugar production. However, during this period, private factories bypassed the labor cooperative factories. Contemporary data from the Office of the State Sugar Commissioner shows the dynamics of change: 104 private mills start operations compared to 103 cooperative mills in the current crushing season. This marks a deviation from last year’s parity, when there were the same number of factories in both sectors (105 factories in both the cooperative and private sectors). Interestingly, industry representatives told the business direction that 103 operating sugar cooperatives operate 12 mills in factories of private entrepreneurs and cooperatives.

In the 2010-2011 season, only 25 percent of the 164 activities were private. In 2019-2020, this number increased to 46 percent of 147 activities. During this period, there are more private factories than cooperative factories.

Management, efficiency

According to experts, poor financial management, lack of professional management and exploitation of mills for political gain contributed to the decline of cooperative sugar factories.

“In recent years, many cooperative sugar factories have faced difficulties and banks have seized their properties to collect debts. The cooperative sector has problems with efficiency, discipline and management. Cooperative mills can survive and survive only if they become competitive,” said BB Thombare, Chairman and Managing Director of Natural Sugar Mills and Director, WISMA. He predicts that private sugar mills will continue to rise in the coming years. The roots of cooperative sugar production in Maharashtra dates back to 1951 when India’s first cooperative sugar factory was established at Pravaranagar in Ahmednagar district. Over the decades, the cooperative movement gained momentum and became an integral part of the country’s economic landscape.

Factories located in drought zone

Solapur division has the highest number of operational sugar factories in the state this year, a total of 50, despite water shortage. Of these, 19 are cooperative factories and 31 are private factories. Solapur also has the highest number of private sugar mills this season, reflecting a wider privatization trend. The sugar zones of Pune and Kolhapur have 31 and 40 factories in operation, which include both private and cooperative ones. Regions known for their agricultural prowess are the main centers of sugar production, and a combination of cooperatives and private enterprise drives the industry forward. The growth of private sector sugar factories in the sugar industry in the state of Maharashtra shows a paradigm shift highlighting the challenges facing the cooperative sector.

“While the cooperative principles are still important, issues of governance, financial sustainability and professional management must be addressed to revive the cooperative sugar movement and ensure a balanced coexistence with private enterprises in the years to come,” said Director Ganpatrao Sawant, a cooperative of Sangle.

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