Jakarta, CNBC Indonesia – Sugar is one of the most developed industries in India. In the period 2022-2023 alone India’s sugar production could reach 32.8 million tonnes. With this figure, India has successfully positioned itself as the 2nd largest sugar producing country in the world Statistics. India only lost 4 million tons from first place, namely Brazil with 38 million tons.
This figure is certainly much different from Indonesia. In the presentation of the Ministry of Agriculture, last year alone sugar production in the country was only 2.4 million tons. Meanwhile, referring to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, Indonesia’s sugar consumption reached 7.8 million tons, meaning that Indonesia still has to import sugar on a large scale, including raw sugar from India.
Report Reuters, the flow of imports is threatened because India will close its export faucet in October 2023. As a result, many predict that the price of sugar in Indonesia will soar. At this point, Indonesia must learn from India: how to become the king of world sugar?
Historically, the sugar industry in India is closely related to British colonialism. Sugarcane became an important commodity for the colonial government because it could bring in money. As a result, sugar factories grew to process sugarcane. Cases like this actually occur in Indonesia and are almost similar. Even though they both started from the colonial era, the fact is that the Indonesian sugar industry is far behind. In fact, when juxtaposed with geography as a factor in the cultivation of sugar cane, the two countries also have similarities.
In Indonesia, there was a businessman from Semarang named Oei Tiong Ham. During his life (1866-1924), he succeeded in dominating the world sugar market and was nicknamed the world sugar king. However, his life story is just a romanticization of the past. Because, it is difficult to materialize in the present.
India’s success in becoming the king of world sugar is due to the government’s success in exercising independence. In the presentation of S. Solomon and M. Swapna in “Indian Sugar Industry: Towards Self-reliance for Sustainability” (2022) it was written, the post-independence Indian government realized that its population consumed large amounts of sugar, so it needed the development of the sugar industry to avoid imports.
In one study, it was written that the consumption of sugar in this country with a population of 1.4 billion reached 29 million tons per year. Each person is able to consume 18 kg of sugar per year.
It is on this basis, citing the exposure of the World Food Organization (FOA), that the New Delhi government seeks to control key aspects of the sugar industry. Starting from factory permits, sugarcane pricing, distribution, and selling mechanisms in the market. It is known that this strict control has occurred since 1952. The aim is to ensure fair prices for sugar cane farmers, ensure adequate profits to the industry, and ensure fair prices to consumers.
Thanks to this method several years later the sugar industry developed rapidly. Initially only 138 factories, then jumped to 400’s. Now, referring to data from the Indian Ministry of Food and Consumers, there are 732 sugar factories across India. And this is not counting small-scale industries that go unnoticed.
Even so, the increase in the sugar industry is also accompanied by improvements in the upstream, namely the issue of the quality of the sugar cane crop. Still quoting the research of S. Solomon and M. Swapna, it is known that the Indian government is seriously conducting research and development of sugar cane. Just like India, sugarcane plants in India are also often attacked by various diseases and pests. In fact, the problem is getting worse when facing the climate crisis.
At this point, the government conducted special research to find sugarcane varieties that are resistant to these various problems. Not only that, research institutes are also trying to find the latest agricultural techniques to deal with these problems.
It is known that this country has several sugarcane research organizations, including: 1) ICAR-Sugarcane Breeding Institute (ICAR-SBI), 2) Coimbatore (considered the birthplace of sugarcane breeding, 3) ICAR-Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research (ICAR-IISR ), 4) Lucknow, 5) Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI), 6) Pune (a state-funded research institute), and 7) various research institutes under the auspices of the university.
Thanks to a combination of tight government controls and technological innovations, it is not surprising that sugar cane and sugar in India are highly productive and there is a massive increase in sugar production. In fact, India’s success in creating the best sugarcane varieties has been praised throughout the world. Thus, the title of king of world sugar is not mistakenly pinned on a country that has many similarities with Indonesia.
“Innovative technology in sugarcane and sugar production systems, strict government control and scope of diversification have made India’s sugar industry useful locally and globally. Even to the point of achieving sustainability and independence,” said S. Solomon and M. Swapna, researchers from ICAR-Indian Institute of Sugarcane Research.