Odisha: Plight of Sugarcane juice vendors in Bhubaneswar

Bhubaneswar: The great summer quencher sugarcane juice is in these days available in the streets of the capital city of Odisha in many places. Come summer and we witness sugarcane juice street vendors in many places across Bhubaneswar. They are seen along with the sugarcane juice extractor machine in the crowded places including bus stands, important junctions and at many other places by the roadside across the capital city.

Once a customer approaches such a vendor, he takes out 2 or 3 pieces of sugarcane and puts it in the machine to extract the juice. He then puts the juice in a glass, mixes black salt, sometimes lemon, zinger and even chilly and serves. And the customers consume it with pleasure. Even the juice is not costly.

Apart from being a tasty drink, sugarcane juice also helps to fight disease like jaundice. In summer demand of sugarcane juice goes up.

While this is the scene we witness in the street, many might not have thought of the reason why so many sugarcane vendors have now ventured to the street. In the capital city of Odisha there are a big number of such vendors. How come so many people entered this trade? Let us discuss.

The answer to the above question is – earlier there were fewer sugarcane juice sellers who were buying sugarcane and were just extracting the juice and selling. However, a major reason why now so many such vendors are found is because, the farmers who are farming sugarcane are now not finding a market to sell their product in a reasonable price. Hence, they are now found a way to directly sell the product to the customers through this trade.

There was a time, when sugarcane farming was a profitable business in Odisha. Sugarcane farmers were earning handsome profit. However, over the years they faced issues to sell their harvest. Lack of proper market, problems in trading and for some other issues they are not in a position now to sell their products profitably.

Even if some farmers manage to sell, either they are not getting proper remuneration or not getting money in due time. And thus, they are forced to sell it in a marginal price. Again, they cannot preserve it. There is cold storage for vegetables. Yet, there is no facility to preserve sugarcane.

In Odisha, now there are only a few numbers of Sugar mills. Even there is no power crusher. Sugar mills are seizing operation one after one which has impacted sugarcane farmers of the village.

In Odisha, sugarcane farming is rampant in places including Nayagarh, Ganjam, Bhadrak, Jajpur and Athagarh. Earlier, tons of sugarcanes were being harvested and were being sent to the mill across the year. Now, the sugar mill in Nayagarh is closed. In Ganjam and Athagarh also the situation is almost same. And hence many farmers have left the farming. And many of them have adopted this juice extraction vending.

It takes about nine to ten months to get the harvested sugarcane ready for sell. The plants remain in the field for two to three years. Later, the harvested sugarcane are cut and taken away for sell. And in the same place new plants grow.

Earlier, the mill authorities used to approach the farmers once the sugarcane get harvested. Hence, there were targets. But, deterioration started once the mills were closed. Even, the few sugar mills which are running now, their condition is getting worse day by day.  Hence farmers are not interested to go for this farming. And, many of the few people who are not growing sugar cane have adopted this business.

The customers get a glass of juice without any effort and by paying a small amount. However, the trader needs to make utmost effort for the output. If colour of the juice does not look good, customers raise question. Keeping it in view the vendors keep only good-looking and fresh sugarcane sticks in his trolley. Yet, all the products are not fine.

The vendors need to do many works before dawn to come up with fine looking sugarcane sticks. He needs to make the dark canes to white before anybody sees. Hence, early in the morning the sugarcanes are washed with sand and water for which a lot of water is needed. If someone has ample water there is no issues, others depend on the river.

A customer comes only if he sees white canes. And hence they need to make tough effort for its look. After much effort only colour of these sugarcane change.

In sugarcane farming after Brazil India is in the second place. In India, nine states — UP, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Bihar Haryana and Punjab are prime sugarcane producers. About fifty per cent of the total sugarcane produced in the country is harvested in Uttar Pradesh while Odisha is not in the list.

Also read: Hirakud dam in Odisha: History, safety challenges & plight of the displaced

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1 Comment
  1. Santosh Mishra says

    The cultivation of sugarcane requires plenty of water. As scarcity of water for agricultural purposes is now a biggest concern in the state and as well as in the nation , the sugarcane cultivation trend may decline as it is not a primary crop. It is generally cultivated for profit only. Moreover the production of the sugar is also declining day by day due to health demerits. Agricultural scientist must look for a water efficient sugar crop so that the interest of the farmers can be secured without any burden on water resources. It also keep the production costs of sugar related products minimum for consumer benefits.

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