Sugar Cooperatives in Maharashtra
IN the 1976-77 sugar season, Maharashtra produced 1.565 million tonnes of sugar, accounting for 32.50 percent of India's total sugar
^ output, from the cane grown in an area of 0.5 million acres. The apex body of cooperative sugar factories in Maharashtra1 projects that in the 1985-86 season 100 factories in the state would crush cane grown in an area of 0.8 million acres, which would yield 3.5 million tonnes of sugar. In other words, Maharashtra would by then account for nearly 50 percent of the country's total sugar output.
Maharashtra thus occupies a "unique position in the sphere
^ of sugar production. This is due to the fact that the percentage of recovery of sugar from the cane and the yield of sugarcane per acre are high in the state compared with other sugarcane growing areas. Further, the cost of growing sugarcane in the state is also lower.3 Another feature which distinguishes Maharashtra is that unlike in other major sugar producing states like Uttar Pradcsh and Bihar, where the majority of sugar factories is privately owned, most of the cane in Maharashtra is crushed by what arc called ^ cooperative sugar factories.
In the post-World War I period, the administration's active encouragement, the boom in the prices of agricultural commodities and cheap irrigation facilities led to a widespread cultivation of sugarcane and the establishment of about 10 privately owned sugar factories in the irrigated tracts of western Maharashtra and Khandesh. The factory owners reaped huge profits, especially during the World War II. In the 1940's the cane growers began to voice demands for a greater share of the profits. On 17 December 1945 a conference of local cultivators was held at Belapur Road in Ahmednagar district, presided over by D R Gadgil, a veteran ^ economist of Poona. An outcome of this conference was the registration of the first cooperative sugar factory on 31 December 1948.