| MUMBAI, April 3
MUMBAI, April 3 Sugar output in Tamil Nadu, one
of India's main sugar producing states, is likely to fall by
more than a third in the new season beginning October, hit by
the worst drought in more than a century.
Tamil Nadu, India's fourth biggest sugar producer, is likely
produce 600,000 tonnes in the 2017/18 season, down from around 1
million tonnes in the current season to September 2017, M.
Manickam, executive chairman of Sakthi Sugars, said.
Tamil Nadu's sugar mills produced 1.36 million tonnes of
sugar in 2015/16.
The overall situation is very grim, Manickam said. Sakthi
Sugars is one of India's largest sugar producers with three
plants in Tamil Nadu, according to its website.
The drought has also hit other parts of southern India,
forcing hundreds of farmers to travel to New Delhi to protest
and seek government help.
Sugar producers from Tamil Nadu, hit by the drought and
saddled with big debts, put live rats in their mouths and
carried the skulls of farmers believed to have committed suicide
at a New Delhi protest last week, calling on Prime Minister
Narendra Modi to save them from starvation.
The farmers, protesting near parliament in New Delhi,
suffered crop losses last year, and they had to take on more
loans to survive.
India as a whole will produce 20.3 million tonnes of sugar
in the year to September 2017, the Indian Sugar Mills
Association said last month, 5 percent lower than a previous
In the last two years, back-to-back droughts have ravaged the
cane crop in the western state of Maharashtra, the country's top
Although India received average monsoon rains last year,
rainfall distribution was uneven, leaving parts of southern
The monsoon, which delivers 70 percent of India's annual
rainfall, is critical for the country's farmers and their rice,
cane, corn, cotton and soybean crops because nearly half of its
farmland lacks irrigation.
The Indian government's weather office is due to issue its
monsoon forecast this month but India could emerge unscathed
from the El Nino weather pattern, K. J. Ramesh, director general
of the India Meteorological Department, said.
Other than sugar, Tamil Nadu's cotton production in 2016/17
is likely to fall by 21 percent to 550,000 bales, according to
the Cotton Association of India.
(Editing by Mayank Bhardwaj and Jane Merriman)