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Posted on  

May 19, 2003

India mulls ethanol production from sugarcane

NEW DELHI - In a bid to tackle the glut in the sugar market, shore up prices and address the woes of cane farmers, India is considering "direct" production of ethanol from sugarcane instead of molasses.

"The current procedure of making ethanol from molasses is complicated and capital intensive, instead the option before us is to directly produce it from cane," Agriculture Minister Ajit Singh said.

Inaugurating an international seminar on bio-fuels, he said India needs to learn from the Brazilian experience on bio-fuels where 48 percent of the cane output in 2002-03 was used for producing sugar and 52 percent for ethanol.

This imparts a flexibility whereby the country can change the use of cane from year to year depending on the demand for sugar and ethanol and the international prices of the two commodities.

He asked companies like Mitsui and Mohan Meakin to use and employ the requisite technology for the purpose. At a time when cane prices have become a major bone of contention between millers and farmers, it is imperative that there is increased production of by-products like ethanol, to make sugar units viable.

"Willy-nilly we have to adopt such technologies, thanks to cane prices this year, the project will take off with a bang," he said.

The government made use of ethanol-blended petrol mandatory in nine states and four Union Territories from January 1 this year. This has emerged as a big opportunity for sugar mills with units to make ethanol from molasses.


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