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D.V. Rangnekar


Sugar production has emerged as one of the major agroindustries in the rural areas of India during the last few decades. It has made a considerable impact on the economy of farmers, particularly in irrigated areas. The impact has been much more in States like Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka in the Western Region since many of the factories are cooperatives and the producer receives full benefit from sugar production. The dairy industry has developed more recently but is more extensively spread, since it is not restricted to irrigated areas only. These two industries integrate very well and are complementary to each other, particularly in the States of Maharashtra and Gujarat where farmers' cooperatives are fairly strong.

2. Sugar production and use of byproducts in India

2.1 In India sugar production is undertaken practically throughout the country and there are well-established factories in 18 out of 26 States. According to reports for the last crushing season, there were 338 factories in operation which crushed about 60 million tonnes of cane, produced 6.1 million tonnes of sugar and 2.5 million tonnes of molasses.

Thus the average recovery of sugar percent cane ranged between 10.0 to 10.3 during the last two seasons and molasses percent cane around 4.2. The major sugar producing States in the country are Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh considering total sugar production and area under sugarcane.

2.2 Average bagasse production is about 30 percent of the sugarcane crushed and about 90 percent of bagasse produced is used as fuel. There are many factories which do not have surplus bagasse either because the boilers are inefficient or the supply of sugarcane is inadequate or irregular. The major use of surplus bagasse is for paper making. However, large quantities of bagasse are either thrown away or taken away for use as fuel or for compost making. In a number of factories surplus bagasse becomes a disposal problem. The price of bagasse ranges between Rs. 0 to 400 per tonne with an average of about Rs. 100 per tonne. This wide range is essentially due to changes in production. Some of the factories are now thinking in terms of using bagasse for feeding cattle in view of increasing shortages of good roughages and increasing interest in milk production by farmers.

2.3 Molasses is a very peculiar commodity. The overall country picture shows a shortage of molasses. However, in areas like Western Maharashtra, there is a surplus and much is wasted. Its use and prices are controlled by the Government and one has to get Government permission for purchase, storage and use of molasses. It is a very low priced item and hence various industries, including the cattle feed industry, are very keen to get as much molasses allocated by the Government as possible. It is used in foundries, paint industries, distilleries for power alcohol, acetone and potable alcoholic drinks, besides the cattle feed industry which has a fairly low share of available molasses. It is currently priced at Rs. 60 per tonne (compared to Rs. 1 200 per tonne of grain). The recent report of the Compound Livestock Feed Manufacture's Association (Annual Report for 1985) shows total feed production (cattle and poultry) to be about 2.0 million tonnes and the molasses requirement to be about 250 000 tonnes per year which is less than 10 percent of the total molasses production of about 2.5 million tonnes. However, the feed industry has great difficulty in obtaining allocations of the desired quantity of molasses. The industry has been making strong representations to the Government to increase the price of molasses.

2.4 In most of the sugarcane producing areas the tops are the sole green material available to dairy animals particularly between February to April when it is relatively dry. The average quantity of tops available are about one third of the cane harvested. These are mostly fed as green to the animals or sometimes dried and stored and fed like cereal straws (in Western Maharashtra). However, in some areas like South Gujarat tops are used as fuel and now attempts are being made, by organizations like ours, to convince the farmers on the use of tops for feeding animals and to ensile them for storage.

2.5 Press mud has found considerable use as a soil conditioner. It is acidic, rich in minerals and contains organic matter, since bagasse is added to the material in the process of pressing out the juice. In most parts of Western India the soils are alkaline and are fast becoming more saline and alkaline. Press mud has been found to be useful to correct this problem. Some factories sell and some allocate press mud free to the farmer members.

2.6 Other uses of byproducts which are under consideration by a number of factories are:

  1. Production of yeast from molasses
  2. Mushroom cultivation on bagasse
  3. Briquetting of bagasse for use as fuel
  4. Use of sugarcane bagasse and molasses as animal feed.

2.7 Some of the features characterizing the sugar industry are:

  1. a large captive market, ever-increasing demand within the country and a fair market price;

  2. possibilities of substantial export and export incentive offered by the Government;

  3. good support to industry from the government, particularly in the cooperative sector, in view of the significant contribution in terms of output, employment generation and foreign exchange earning by this industry;

  4. sugarcane is used for production of Jaugary (Gur) and brown raw sugar (Khandsari) in India besides white sugar. These two products are used as a sweetening agent like sugar throughout the country. In some of the states like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Karnataka, Haryana more than 60 percent of sugarcane is used for the preparation of these two products;

  5. since the last few years attempts have been made to introduce sugar beet particularly in North India. A recent study indicates that sugar beet is a financially viable and attractive activity from the point of view of farmers as a complementary crop to sugarcane. However critical assessment is suggested before launching a large programme of introducing sugar beet (Gurdev Singh et al., 1985).

  6. another feature which is worth noting is the emergence of a farmers' cooperative for sugar production.

3. Problems faced by the sugar industry in India

In view of fairly strict Government control on sugar and its byproducts, the industry faces some problems while receiving a certain amount of protection from the Government. The factory has to make available a fairly large share of its produce at a controlled rate for marketing through Government channels (levy sugar). It can sell a specific quantity in the free market as and when the government announces the release quota, which limits the profitability of the factory. Sometimes there is compulsion for export and by and large the international market price is lower than the local market price. The price of molasses, is fixed by the government at a very low level (Rs. 60/ton) thus reducing the income of the industry.

The average production of sugar and recovery of sugar is fairly low in many States and is detrimental to the industry as a whole. In many States recovery is between 8 to 9 percent as against about 11 percent in Maharashtra. In many States sugarcane production is very low, i.e. around 40 tonnes per hectare as against 100 tonnes per hectare or more in some States like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh etc. Variation in rainfall has a tremendous effect on this industry like any other agroindustry.

However the major factor affecting the profitability of the sugar industry is the increasing cost of inputs coupled with limitations regarding sale of products described above. The cost of labour, irrigation, transport, seed material and chemicals has gone up considerably during the last few years. Hence the farmers have to consider maximizing the use of land by integrating sugarcane production with other operations.

4. Suggested approach for maximizing benefits from sugar production

4.1 In a developing country like India with a large human population and limitation of land, irrigation facilities and purchasing power of an average person, a different approach is needed to obtain full benefit from any agricultural production system. An approach which will maximize use of all natural resources such as land and water, and in addition human labour and products of the system, needs to be taken. A change in the organizational pattern of the industry has to be considered so that farmers benefit fully from the profits of value addition in the product due to processing. Thus integration of farming systems, cooperativization and full use of byproducts are suggested. Adoption of this approach has considerably improved the socio-economic status of farmers in Western India. A systems approach needs to be taken which will consider agroclimatic conditions, natural resources, farmers' aptitude, organizational support, Government policies and other related aspects.

4.2 Emergence of cooperatives in sugar production

As a result of the emergence of cooperative units in Western and Southern India, the industry has played a very significant role in the economic and social progress of the farmers. In States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh the majority of factories are in the cooperative sector, while in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar etc. most of the factories are in the private sector. The cooperative sugar factory has enabled the farmers to come together and made them realize their ability in organizing themselves for sugar production and overall development. The unique feature of the sugar cooperatives in these States lies in the fact that they have used part of the profit for the overall development of the area, the people and water resources, providing educational and health facilities, helping the farmers in diversifying into horticulture, poultry and animal production, arranging loans on easy terms etc. The factories employ professionals who help to organize and plan cultivation, harvesting, crushing and processing of sugarcane and marketing. The farmer does not have to bother about any of these aspects and he can concentrate on cultivation and also think of diversifying. Many factories have started distilleries for alcohol or acetone production from molasses and a few have put up papermaking units based on sugarcane bagasse. Preparation of cattle feed from bagasse is a relatively new area of interest.

4.3 Integration of sugar and milk production in Maharashtra State

Diversification, development programmes and integration with milk production by the sugar cooperatives in Maharashtra with a view to increasing the farmer's income and optimize use of land and human labour are worth studying. Some cooperatives established distilleries for making power alcohol and potable alcoholic drinks from molasses and paper units using bagasse. Some have established large poultry farms since Bombay provides an excellent outlet for eggs and chicken. The Bhartiya Agro Industries Foundation which initiated a large cattle development programme during 1969–70 in Western India was able to convince the cooperatives that dairy cattle keeping could integrate very well with sugarcane production and would be an excellent source of additional employment and income to the farmers as well as to the landless labourers working in that area. It would provide work and income for womenfolk - who generally look after cattle or buffaloes. Starting with a few centres for crossbreeding covering a few thousand animals in 1969–70 the BAIF has during the last few years been operating more than 50 centres covering 100 000 cattle in the sugar belt. About 50 000 crossbreds have been produced through these centres with farmers. The amount of milk generated increased so rapidly that separate cooperatives have been formed in different districts and dairy cattle keeping, which was never a traditional vocation in this area, has become an important part of the farming system. The cattle utilize byproducts like sugarcane tops efficiently and provide valuable manure and males for farm operations and carting.

A large number of farmers have installed a cowdung biogas plant which provides fuel as well as good quality manure. Manure is valuable since it helps to maintain soil texture and quality which otherwise deteriorate rapidly in the sugarcane area because of heavy doses of fertilizers and irrigation. The farmers produce good quality fodder crops as rotational crops or catch crops or inter crops since good milch cattle are now available to them. Generally lucerne is sown as a rotational crop for sugarcane in order to restore the fertility of the plots.

While the sugarcane is in a growing stage catch crops of maize or sorghum are grown by the farmers. Most of the farmers sow leguminous trees like sesbania and more recently leucaena on the bunds between the sugarcane plots as wind breaks and a source of fuel and fodder. An attempt has been made to illustrate this integration in Figure 1. Another interesting feature which has attracted the farmers towards animal production and particularly milk production is ready cash availability through milk; while payments are generally made for sugarcane at 6-monthly intervals and full payment is received only after 12–14 months, payment for milk is made every day or at least once a week by the cooperative.

4.4 Utilization of sugar and its byproducts for animal feeding

4.4.1 Whole sugarcane is not commonly fed to animals or cultivated as a fodder crop since it fetches a fairly high price for sugar production. However, under certain conditions, such as excessive production of cane and delay in harvesting, rejection of the cane by the factory, non-availability of irrigation and non-availability of fodder crops, whole sugarcane is sometimes fed to the animals. The average chemical composition observed after analysing a number of samples of whole sugarcane of the CO-740 variety is summarized in Table 1. Feeding trials conducted on crossbred cattle producing 10 to 12 litres of milk indicate that whole sugarcane can easily replace conventional fodder crops like sorghum with an average intake of 20.5 kg per day and dry matter digestibility ranging between 56 to 57 percent (Rangnekar & Joshi, 1978). Ensiling of sugarcane was tried along with 0.5 percent urea. A product with pH of 3.6, crude protein content of 6.25 percent and good acceptability by animals could be obtained. Some trials were also conducted cultivating sugarcane as a fodder crop and it was found that by harvesting sugarcane at shorter intervals, a more leafy material and fairly high yields (about 200 tonnes per hectare) could be obtained. Feeding trials comparing sugarcane harvested at 6 and 12 months showed that dry matter intake is significantly better for 6 months' cane and crude protein is higher (Badve et al., 1979) (Table 1). Derinding of sugarcane was not tried since it involves fairly high investments. However, use of a softer variety of sugarcane available in Maharashtra State (called Pundya) has indicated that intake with this variety could be fairly high. However, the yields are low.

4.4.2 Sugarcane tops, as indicated earlier, are utilized in many areas as green fodder during the harvesting season. The average chemical composition of sugarcane tops of the CO-740 variety is summarized in Table 2. Trials conducted on ensiling of sugarcane tops with urea produced encouraging results and good quality silage could be obtained. Ensiling of tops for preservation is now being popularized.

4.3 Sugarcane bagasse is available in large quantities with well established sugar factories since this is a material available at low cost and at one point of production. The possibilities of its use attracted attention particularly during the severe drought in 1974–75 in Maharashtra and Gujarat States. Thousands of animals were maintained in these States on sugarcane bagasse supplemented with molasses, urea, minerals and a concentrate mixture. Encouraged by experience it was thought worthwhile to study the processing of bagasse to improve its palatability and digestibility and to supplement it to increase energy, protein and mineral value so that a cheaper alternate feed could be made available to the small farmer and landless labourer. Trials were conducted with bagasse subjected to steam treatment using pressure of 5, 7 and 9 kg per cm2 for 30, 60 and 90 minutes (Table 3). It was found that the digestibility improved considerably with the treatment. However, the important change was in colour, smell and palatability of bagasse, making it an acceptable material (Rangnekar et al., 1982, 1986a). The process has been tried at several places in Maharashtra and Gujarat and ultimately a spherical rotating digester has been designed to process bagasse since a number of factories were interested in preparing low cost feed from treated bagasse. Trials have been conducted with complete feed prepared with treated bagasse as a major component. Purebred Jersey averaging 11 to 12 litres and crossbred cattle averaging 8 to 9 litres could be easily maintained on this complete feed. Moreover the cost of feeding the animals was lowered considerably (Rangnekar et al., 1986b).

4.4.4 With regard to use of molasses, there are two centres where some interesting applied research has been undertaken in India which resulted in the recommendation of two products from molasses for cattle feeding. At the Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, preparation of Uromol was undertaken and it was successfully demonstrated that this could replace concentrates to some extent. The Uromol involves mixing of urea and molasses and cooking for 60 minutes. The mixture can be used as such or with bran mixture oil cakes or other supplements as per the requirement (Rana and Lengar, 1982). Another interesting product has been developed by the National Dairy Development Board, Anand which has resulted in development of a molasses brick. This essentially contains molasses, urea, minerals, rice bran and a protein supplement and the mixture is solidified and made into brick form. NDDB has developed the process with the advice of Dr. Leng from Australia and a unit for making bricks has been developed. This has been tried in some of the Operation Flood areas with good results. The results show a considerable economy in feeding of milch buffaloes particularly those on a straw diet (Kunju, 1986). The feeding of molasses bricks is reported to increase the intake of straw and replace a concentrate mixture to some extent.


Badve, V.C., Kharat, S.T., Sobale, B.N., Joshi, A.L. and Rangnekar, 1979 D.V. Nutritive value of sugarcane for dairy cattle. Proceedings XVth Dairy Industry Conference, Hyderabad, India.

Gurdev Singh, Gupta, T., Guleria, A. 1985 Economic and management aspects of sugar beet cultivation and processing in India CMA - monograph 105, Pub. Oxford and IBH Publishing Co., New Delhi.

Kunju, P.J.G. 1986 Urea molasses block lick as feed supplement for ruminants. Presented at International Workshop on Rice Straw and Related Feeds in Ruminant Rations, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 24–28 March.

Rana, V.K. and Lengar, P.N. 1982 Comparative nitrogen balance studies with only Uromol and groundnut cake supplemented wheat straw diets in the ruminants. Indian Journal of Animal Science, 52: 1226.

Rangnekar, D.V. and Joshi, A.L. 1978 Sugarcane as a potential fodder for cattle. Proc. Seminar on Stabilisation of Sugarcane Production, Kanpur, India.

Rangnekar, D.V. Badve, V.C., Kharat, S.T., Soble, B.N. and Joshi, A.L. 1982 Effect of high pressure steam treatment on chemical composition and in vitro digestibility of roughages. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 7:61–70.

Rangnekar, D.V. Joshi, A.L., Badve, V.C. and Thole, N.S. 1986a Summary of studies on steam treatment of sugarcane bagasse for feeding of dairy cattle. Presented at International Workshop on Rice Straw and Related Feeds in Ruminant Rations. Kandy, Sri Lanka, 24–28 March.

Rangnekar, D.V., Joshi, A.L., Gadekar, H.L. and Patil, B.R. 1986b A note on field application of processing of paddy straw and sugarcane bagasse in Maharashtra and Gujarat States. Presented at International Workshop on Rice Straw and Related Feeds in Ruminant Rations. Kandy, Sri Lanka, 24–28 March.

Figure 1: Integration of sugar and milk production for optimizing Land use

Figure 1
Table 1: Some observations on whole sugarcane
1. Chemical composition of mature (18 m) whole sugarcane; var. CO-740 (% dry basis) (average of several observations)

2. Chemical composition of sugarcane harvested at two stages (6 & 12 months) (var. CO-740) (% dry basis)
6 months3.421.71.45.468.1
12 months1.823.81.16.866.4

3. Average digestibility coefficients & intake of whole sugarcane (CO-740) harvested at 6 and 12 months age (% dry basis)
6 months56.961.639.856.265.32450
12 months57.859.717.258.162.42446

Table 2: Studies on sugarcane tops
1. Chemical composition of sugarcane tops (average of several observations - % dry basis)

2. Chemical composition and digestibility studies with silage of sugarcane top + 0.5% urea (% dry basis)
Table 3: IVTDMD and cell wall digestibility of steam-treated sugarcane bagasse, paddy straw and sorghum straw
 TreatmentSugarcane bagasse1Paddy straw2Sorghum straw3
(kg cm-2)
IVTDMDCWC digestibilityIVTDMDCWC digestibilityIVTDMDCWC digestibility

1 Mean of 10 observations.
2 Mean of 2 observations.
3 Mean of 6 observations.
abcd: Values in a column with different superscripts differ (p <0.5)

D.V. Rangnekar

La producción de caña de azúcar es una de las agroindustrias más importanres en las zonas rurales de la India. Ha tenido un enorme impacto en la situación socioeconómica de la población de algunas zonas en que la industria está organizada. La producción de azúcar en los últimos cinco años ha sido de 6 a 8,4 millones de toneladas, con una tasa de recuperación media del 10 por ciento aproximadamente. La industria del azúcar se está diversificando y tratando de utilizar debidamente los subproductos. Sin embargo, las posibilidades de mejorar su utilización son grandes.

La industria del azúcar en la India se caracteriza por una demanda nacional cada vez mayor, por sus posibilidades de exportación y por el surgimiento de cooperativas. Sin embargo, los bajos rendimientos obtenidos en algunas zonas, la fluctuación de los precios, el control ejercido sobre la venta de azúcar, los bajos precios fijados para la melaza y la periodicidad de las sequías influyen negativamente en la economía de esta industria.

Un elemento positivo es el surgimiento de cooperativas de agricultores en la India occidental y meridional, que permiten a éstos beneficiarse plenamente de la industria e invertir parte de las utilidades en su desarrollo, diversificación e integración en la producción animal. Las cooperativas reciben bastante apoyo del Gobierno. Merece estudiarse el impacto que ha tenido en el estado de Maharashtra, ya que la mayoría de las fábricas funcionan en régimen cooperativo. Las cooperativas han colaborado con la Fundación de Industrias Agrarias de Bhartiya en la integración de la producción del azúcar y la leche con excelentes resultados.

Se describen brevemente algunas interesantes investigaciones aplicadas sobre los subproductos.

Para países en desarrollo como la India, se sugiere la aplicación de un método de sistemas que potencie al máximo la utilización de los recursos, permita elegir a los candidatos apropiados para la integración, las technologías y las estructuras orgánicas (como cooperativas) a fin de que los productores puedan beneficiarse plenamente.

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