As the sugarcane farming has been declining of late, sugar production has decreased drastically this year.

According to the Nepal Sugar Industry Association, only 80,000 tonnes of sugar has been produced this year - nearly 45 per cent less than 180,000 tonnes of sugar produced last year.

The association had initially estimated that 130,000 tonnes of sugar would be produced this year. However, the actual production of sugar turned out to be much lower due to shortage of sugarcane.

Until eight years ago, Nepal used to produce 280,000 tonnes of sugar annually. At that time, a single industry used to produce up to 100,000 tonnes of sugar. However, sugar production has been affected as sugarcane cultivation continues to decline.

The number of sugarcane farmers has decreased every year due to the dispute over their payment with the mill operators. With the number of industries closing down due to payment disputes, the price of sugarcane has also increased.

Of the total sugar mills across the country, four have halted their operations completely.

Meanwhile, the remaining 10 sugar mills are operating at less capacity in lack of sugarcane.

Nepal consumes about 250,000 tonnes of sugar annually. Lately, farmers have stopped being attracted to sugarcane cultivation. Even after getting their payment, the farmers have started cultivating vegetables instead, said Kapilmuni Mainali, president of Nepal Federation of Sugarcane Producers' Association.

Now that industries have started paying farmers, sugarcane cultivation may increase next year, said President of Nepal Sugar Mills' Association (NSMA) Sashikant Agrawal.

"Farmers are happy with the price of sugarcane this year. We believe they will go back to cultivating sugarcane in the future."

The NSMA has stated that the industry has not increased the price of sugar haphazardly despite low sugar production. Production cost has gone up this year by two rupees per kg compared to last year. Hence, sugar, which was sold at Rs 63 per kg last year, is currently being sold at Rs 65 per kg, according to the NSMA.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 01, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.