Over 14% Cane To Be Harvested Mechanically, Maharashtra Sets Another Record This Season
808 mechanical harvesters are employed in this 2020-21 crushing season by the sugar mills which is an all-time high.
Setting a new record, Maharashtra is expected to see more than 14 per cent of the 873 lakh tonne (lt) of sugarcane to be harvested by mechanical combines, this crushing season.
The sugar mills have employed an all-time high of 808 mechanical harvesters to harvest cane during 2020-21 grinding season.
Due to the problems associated with the harvest workers in recent years, the mills have switched to mechanised harvesters. Besides, the state government had launched a subsidy program for the purchase of these machines. The mills have also encouraged many farmer self-help groups to invest in these machines, reported The Indian Express.
While the number of harvesters has only increased over the last few years, the technical glitches associated with these machines have made the farmers think twice about the decision to include machines in their harvesting plan.
Small landholdings have been a major constraint for the mass adoption in the state like in Brazil and other advanced-sugar producing countries. Equipment manufacturers claimed that the necessary modifications are to be made so that the massive machines can adapt to Indian conditions.
An acre of cane field can be harvested with the help of these machines in four hours which usually take two days for manual harvesters.
The Solapur Mills will be contracting over 216 such machines while Kolhapur and Pune have pressed into service 182 and 176 machines respectively. Ahmednagar has reported 107.
It is expected that 115 lt cane will be harvested by the machines out of the 873 lt.
Cane is harvested by seasonal migrant workers who migrate to different sugar mills to harvest and transport cane at the beginning of the season.
These labourers are paid per tonne of cane harvested and are employed on contract through mukkadam (overseers).
Their numbers are going down as the younger generation has started to opt for other professions.
"The area of cane is increasing and there is intense competition among mills to harvest on time and, thus, these machines are becoming increasingly common," said Dharmaraj Kadadi, chairperson of Solapur-based Sidheshwar Cooperative sugar mill.
He complained about a recovery loss as along with the sucrose part, the green tops also get harvested.
"Thus, this would translate into lower recovery for us," he added.