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Inaugural Address of Prime Minister of India

Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee

at the XXIII Congress of the

International Society of Sugarcane Technologists

New Delhi - February 22, 1999



Shri Barnala, Shri Pawar, Shri Yadav, Shri Sinha, Shri Patil, Shri Kumar, Shri Sawhney, Shri Goel, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to be here with you this morning to inaugurate the 23rd Congress of the International Society of Sugarcane Technologists. I am happy to know that this Congress is taking place in India after 43 years. I welcome the foreign participants and wish them a pleasant and fruitful stay.

It is believed that India is the original home of sugarcane. The earliest reference to sugarcane is traced to the Atharva Veda, one of the oldest sacred scriptures of India. There have been references to the Buddha being known as the "King of Sugarcane" in Buddhist literature. Alexander the Great is said to have taken sugarcane from India to the West around 325 B.C.

It is because of India's long and rich tradition of growing sugarcane, that thousands of Indians were taken as indentured labourers during the colonial period to distant lands like Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana. In independent India, thanks to our hardworking farmers, technicians and entrepreneurs, India has become the largest producer and consumer of cane sugar.

Sugar plays a very significant role in India's agricultural and industrial economy. Although sugarcane occupies barely three percent of India's total cultivable area, about forty million people are dependent on sugarcane farming and the sugar industry. A unique feature of the Indian sugar industry is that more than 58 percent of production takes place in cooperative factories, which are also the focal point of multi-dimensional socio-economic development in rural areas.

The Government of India has taken a number of steps recently to revitalize the sugar industry and enable it to reap the benefits of liberalisation. I believe that the industry can grow best when it is freed from bureaucratic control. Accordingly, the sugar industry was delicensed on September 1 last year. This will allow the faster creation of new capacity, both in the existing sugar mills and in new ones. Larger and better equipped sugar mills will result in better quality sugar.




Decentralization of decision-making is another dimension of reforms in the Indian sugar industry and trade. We have given the States the freedom to decide how many sugar dealers are needed, and removed the maximum stock holding limits.

As a result of these and other measures, I am happy to note that the price of sugar has remained largely stable in the last one year, compared to the prices of many other commodities.

Technological development in sugarcane cultivation and sugar industry is vital for raising both productivity and prosperity in rural India. To achieve this, the Government runs the Sugar Technology Mission, which has developed five new technologies, which are being applied in many factories. Some of these like low pressure extraction, cane separation system, and sulfur burner have been commercialized for the first time in the world.

Some of the specific areas where further research and development is needed are:

reducing the water consumed in growing sugarcane; capacitv utilization of factories; maximizing recovery of sugar from sugarcane; energy conservation; improving the quality of sugar; and minimizing environmental pollution. Use of information technology holds a major promise for the success of all these tasks.

Our sustained efforts in sugarcane breeding have raised cane productivity to world levels. There is, however, a great scope and need for further improvement. India is a country with diverse agro-climatic zones. While cane productivity in the tropical areas has been impressive, it is lower in the sub-tropical zones.

Equally important is the challenge to raise sugarcane productivity in small landholdings. So far the impact of technology on cane cultivation by small farmers has been minimal in most countries. Experience shows that education and active involvement of farmers are a key guarantor for the success of technology outreach programmes.

Development of by-products of sugar is vital for improving the industry's financial viability. India has gained useful experience in commercializing these value-addition processes. Bagasse has been successfully used in the production of newsprint and paper in India. Similarly, the use of filter cake enriched by distillery effluents for composting has been successfully tried recently. There could be similar uses of other by-products.

Another issue which I commend for discussion in this Conference is the financial needs of sugar factories for technological upgradation. The Government operates the Sugar Development Fund, which provides soft terms for cane development programs, modernization, and rehabilitation of existing sugar mills. I would urge the managements of sugar factories to increase internal generation of surpluses for this purpose. While technological inputs are necessary to achieve efficiency, cost-reduction, and quality enhancement, equally important are non-technological factors such as better management. I am sure the delegates will learn much from each other's experiences in this critical area.

Co-generation of electricity by sugar mills is a potential low-cost source of energy. It is also environment friendly. There are newer technologies which reduce the moisture content on cane, improving the viability of cogeneration projects. These and other related technologies must be developed and spread quickly so that the sugar industry can improve its energy efficiency - and even earn more by selling surplus electricity.

Distinguished delegates, global cooperation in R&D is the key that unlocks the gate to global prosperity. This is true about sugar technologies, too.

With these words, I have great pleasure to inaugurate this Congress. I wish you all success.

Thank you.