In a candid admission, the state government has stated that bringing more area under sugarcane cultivation is not "realistic or feasible", considering the agro-climatic conditions.
Maharashtra has witnessed an exponential growth of sugarcane cultivation following proliferation of cooperative sugar factories after the Independence.
The admission about non-sustainability of sugarcane farming has been made in an affidavit filed in the Bombay high court by joint secretary (Home) Prakash Gaud in the PIL against a scheme which encourages grain-based liquor production.
Defending the policy of subsidising distilleries which would use foodgrains for production of alcohol instead of molasses (a sugarcane byproduct), government has argued that sugarcane farming is not sustainable in Maharashtra.
"Adding substantial areas to sugarcane cultivation was not a realistic or feasible option," it says, stating why liquor-distilleries have to switch to foodgrains. "Considering the agro-climate conditions, a large-scale expansion of sugarcane cultivation in Maharashtra in near future did not seem likely."
"Sugarcane is a highly water intensive crop which requires irrigated land and can not be cultivated in purely rainfall-dependent areas," the affidavit says. The affidavit also contends that use of molasses for the production of alcohol was not "environment-friendly".
"Preparation of alcohol from molasses results in comparatively high levels of air and water pollution," the government has stated in the affidavit.
The PIL against subsidy to foodgrains-based liquor distilleries has been filed by Bhimshakti Vichar Manch, on the ground that it would lead to food scarcity.