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India’s Sugar Export


India has gone from being a marginal sugar exporter five years ago to No. 2 in the world, behind only Brazil. Between 2017-18 and 2021-22, exports have soared from USD 810.9 million to USD 4.6 billion.


GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Sugar Industry in India: Current Status and Geographical Conditions
  2. Issues with the Sugarcane Industry
  3. Status of Sugar Exports from India

Sugar Industry in India: Current Status and Geographical Conditions

  • The sugar industry in India plays a crucial role in the country’s agro-based economy, providing livelihood to millions of sugarcane farmers and workers.
  • In the 2021-22 season, India became the world’s largest producer and consumer of sugar and the second-largest exporter.
Geographical Distribution:
  • The sugar industry in India is concentrated in two major regions: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, and Punjab in the north, and Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh in the south.
  • The southern region has a tropical climate that is suitable for higher sucrose content, resulting in a higher yield per unit area as compared to the northern region.
Geographical Conditions for Sugar Growth:

The following conditions are ideal for the growth of sugar in India:

  • Temperature: The ideal temperature for sugarcane growth is between 21-27°C with a hot and humid climate.
  • Rainfall: An annual rainfall of around 75-100 cm is required.
  • Soil Type: The deep, rich loamy soil is suitable for the growth of sugarcane.

Issues with the Sugarcane Industry

  • Sugarcane has to compete with several other food and cash crops like cotton, oil seeds, rice, etc. This affects the supply of sugarcane to the mills and the production of sugar also varies from year to year causing fluctuations in prices leading to losses in times of excess production due to low prices.
  • India’s yield per hectare is extremely low as compared to some of the major sugarcane producing countries of the world. For example, India’s yield is only 64.5 tonnes/hectare as compared to 90 tonnes in Java and 121 tonnes in Hawaii.
  • Sugar production is a seasonal industry with a short crushing season varying normally from 4 to 7 months in a year. It causes financial loss and seasonal employment for workers and lack of full utilization of sugar mills.
  • The average rate of recovery of sugar from sugarcane in India is less than ten per cent which is quite low as compared to other major sugar producing countries.
  • High cost of sugarcane, inefficient technology, uneconomic process of production and heavy excise duty result in high cost of manufacturing.

Status of Sugar Exports from India


  • Until 2017-18, India’s sugar exports were mainly limited to low-quality white sugar with an ICUMSA value of 100-150.
  • However, India had hardly exported any raw sugar (produced after the first crystallization of cane juice).

Current Status:

  • In the 2021-22 season, India exported a total of 110 lakh tonnes of sugar, out of which raw sugar accounted for 56.29 lakh tonnes.
  • Indonesia, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Malaysia were the biggest importers of Indian raw sugar.

Reasons for Rising Exports:

There are several reasons behind the rise of India’s raw sugar exports, including:

  • Free of Bacterial Compound:
    • Indian raw sugar is free of dextran, a bacterial compound that forms when sugarcane stays in the sun for too long after harvesting.
    • Indian cane is crushed within 12-24 hours of harvesting while it takes around 48 hours in Brazil.
  • High Sucrose Content:
    • Indian raw sugar has a higher polarization (98.5-99.5%) compared to other producers like Brazil, Thailand, and Australia, making it easier and cheaper to refine.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024