(This exercise is meant for Class 8 and 9.]
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a recent election meeting in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, he was compelled to make a promise relating to sugar, a diet staple.
Farmers who grow cane in the politically crucial state ruled by Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were angry because sugar mills had not paid their dues in time. They held protests and blocked railway tracks. “I know there are cane dues. I will make sure every penny of yours will be paid,” Mr Modi told the audience.
India’s sugar mills are bleeding money and collectively owe billions of dollars to 50 million cane farmers, many of whom haven’t been paid for nearly a year. Niti Ayog, a government think tank, says the arrears have reached “alarming” levels. More than 12 million tonnes of unsold sugar have piled up in factories. There is little incentive to export more as India’s sugar price is higher than the international price.
Sugar is serious business in India. Around 525 mills produced more than 30 million tonnes of sugar in the last crushing season, which lasted from October to April. This makes it the world’s largest producer, unseating Brazil. A large number of mills are run by cooperatives where farmers own shares proportional to the land they own and pledge their produce to the mill.
That’s not all. Some 50 million farmers, tightly concentrated geographically, are engaged in cane farming. Millions more work in the mills and farms and are engaged in transportation of cane.
As with much of India’s politics, cane growers appear to be a reliable “vote bank”. Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, which together produce 60% of the country’s sugar, send 128 MPs to the parliament. The price of cane can swing votes in more than 150 of the 545 seats in the ongoing general election, according to one estimate. Sugar is possibly the “most politicised crop in the world”, says Shekhar Gaikwad, the sugar commissioner of Maharashtra.
Indians are also voracious consumers of sugar. The bulk of the supply goes into making sweets, confectionary and fizzy drinks that are beginning to contribute to a rising obesity problem, like elsewhere in the world. “The world’s sweet tooth continues to rely on cane sugar, much as it did four centuries ago,” says James Walvin, author of How Sugar Corrupted the World. (Acknowledgement .. Soutik Biswas, BBC)
- What promise Mr. Narendra Modi had to make, and why?
- Why stocks of unsold sugar have piled up in sugar mills, and what is its repercussions?
- Why is India not exporting the excess sugar?
- Why is sugar cultivation such a crucial issue in Indian politics?
- Indians eat a lot of sugar in different ways. What problem it creates for the country?
[Answers will be posted with this post in three days.]
Q1… Mr. Modi promised that the pending dues of the farmers with regard to their cane supply to mills would be cleared.
Q2 .. The mills are not able to sell their stocks because the supply of sugar exceeds its demand. The glut has persisted for quite a few years worsening the situation both for the mills and the farmers. Unsold stocks leads to unpaid dues of farmers. This, in turn, leads to extreme distress to the farmers. They can’t mobilize funds for the next crop.
Q3. India’s sugar price is more than that of other producers like Brazil. So, it becomes impossible for India to export sugar.
Q4. Maharastra and Uttar Pradesh supply nearly 60% of India’s sugar. These two states send nearly 125 MPs to the parliament. Keeping the cane growers in good humor is, therefore, very important for India’s political parties.
Q5. Excess sugar intake causes obesity and aggravates diabetes. Both, in turn, cause major health hazards. India’s spiraling heart disease cases and diabetes incidence have their roots in sugar consumption.
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