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Farmers demand permission to produce ethanol from sugarcane

According to reports, farmer leaders on Tuesday stepped up their demand for permission to tillers to produce ethanol from sugarcane they produce and sell the byproducts.

“The Centre has permitted to blend only five per cent ethanol into petrol, while countries like Brazil and the US are looking towards ethanol as an option for petrol and diesel. There are industries in Maharashtra that export the machinery required to set up industrial units that produce ethanol,” said peasant leader Raghunathdada Patil .

He was addressing a statewide conference on ethanol held in the city. The meeting was organized by the Shtakari Sanghatana faction of Sharad Joshi and Raghunathdada Patil and Biodiesel Shetakri Sanghatana of Shamrao Desai.

“The fovernment permits to set up such plants but does not allow us to use the technology. Our demand is simple. We have surplus production of sugarcane, which results into surplus sugar. The government should ensure that the price of sugar should not come down in the market because of excess production. If the government allow us to use surplus sugarcane and produce ethanol, both the issues of market price of sugar and the minimum support price (MSP) of the cane can be resolved as ethanol production will give more money to the farmers,” said Raghunathdada.

“Like solar and wind energy, ethanol is also an energy product produced from a natural source and should come under the renewable energy department and not the petroleum department. Considering it a biodiesel, ethanol should be brought under the purview of the agricultural department and norms related to these departments should be applied to ethanol”, he said.

Shamrao Desai, president of the Biodiesel Shetkari Sanghatana, said, “From one tonne of sugarcane crop, the government earns Rs 3,550 through various taxes and cess imposed on cane production and its byproducts and the farmers get Rs 2500 from factories. If we produce ethanol directly from cane, the government will lose this amount. This is the main reason that the farmers are not allowed to produce ethanol from sugarcane.”

He added, “There are around 170 sugar factories and 250 distilleries in Maharashtra. But only 17 factories produce ethanol from molasses, the sugarcane by product. If the government permits all the factories to produce ethanol, we could save crores of rupees spent on import of petrol.”

Shantakumar Kurgur, a farmers’ leader from Karnataka, who attended the conference, said, “All farmers from India should unite and fight for the demand. We can convince the governmnent to allow production of ethanol by putting pressure on it.”

It was also decided to organize a sugarcane conference in Satara on October 6 to raise the demand of the rate of Rs 3,500 per tonne for this year’s crushing season from sugar factories.

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