India’s sugar industry, one of the largest in the world, supports an enormous number of jobs. An assessment of the production process, however, raises grave questions on sustainability of the produce and whether it subscribes to fair business practices.
Human Cost of Sugar
Despite sugar being the largest agricultural commodity produced in Uttar Pradesh, lack of transparency in the supply-chain practices makes it challenging for the farmers—especially marginal and small farmers—who depend largely on sugarcane- their primary produce. Various stakeholders at the bottom of the chain often end up paying the Human Cost of Sugar.
Not just violation of ethical production practices, unsustainable use of groundwater for sugar-cane crops and household wastage is depleting the groundwater table very fast.
What Are We Reading:
5 Key Takeaways from Study on Sustainability in Sugar Value Chains
Oxfam India’s study Human Cost of Sugar - a ‘farm to mill’ assessment of sugar supply chain in Uttar Pradesh makes an attempt to understand the complex issue and how it affects the key stakeholders involved. Of all the key stakeholders directly involved in sugar value chains—farmers, farm workers, sugar mills, cane societies, Cane Development and Sugar Industry Department, companies buying sugar, civil societies and trade unions—women farmers bear most severe brunt, found the study.
The Grey Shades Of Sugar Policies In India
India’s sugar industry is in the grips of a deep-rooted crisis, argues this Economic and Political Weekly article. Pricing policies that had been designed to favour farmers have left them in severe distress. Sugar millers have also lost business and accumulated large amounts of debt. Consumers, however, have barely been affected due to the cap on the price of sugar.
Workers In Sugarcane Farms Of Uttar Pradesh Get A Bitter Deal
Oxfam India's study Human Cost of Sugar highlights several heartbreaking realities faced by farm workers in the sugarcane farms of Uttar Pradesh. This IRBF blog highlights some of the key challenges faced by workers as found in the report.
Environmental Cost Of Sugar- Barren Land, Dead Cattles And Depleting Ground Water
Overexploitation of ground water resources, untreated discharge of effluents and limited policy action has led to a grave environmental crisis in Uttar Pradesh. For sugar industry to have a sustainable growth inclusive of the environment it is necessary for all the stakeholders to develop environmentally friendly sugar cane cultivation methods, says this IRBF piece.
Charting The Future Of India’s Sugar Industry
India’s domestic sugar market is in the doldrums, as the international market price of sugar has been falling. With general elections coming up in 2019, managing sugar markets and balancing the interests of sugar millers and sugarcane producers is a serious policy challenge for India’s government. This International Food Policy Research Institute article argues that ethanol might provide potential answers to current price doldrums.
Read Human Cost of Sugar report here.