One of the most important commercial crops in India that thrives in the tropical and subtropical climates is sugarcane. India is the second largest producer of sugar in the world after Brazil and has seen a phenomenal growth in sugar exports of 291 percent from USD 1,177 million in 2013 – 14 to USD 4,600 million in 2021 – 22.
India now exports sugar to 121 countries and is also the global leader in jaggery production. More than 70 percent of the world jaggery production is done in India with the states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh leading from the front.
Though Chhattisgarh is more famous for its wide range of indigenous rice, it has been increasingly sought-after for its excellent sugarcane and jaggery cultivated in Kawardha in Kabirdham district.
This district is blessed with dense forest cover in the north and west, loamy soil and tropical climate with hot and humid summers, cool winters and adequate rain in the monsoon season. Small and marginal farmers prefer to rely on organic, natural and zero farming and get substantial help from the pro-farmer central government schemes and comprehensive irrigation network implemented by the central government.
Farmers sell their produce to the sugarcane crushing factories and jaggery factories that are close to the fields as well as to the neighbouring states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. It is estimated that over 24,155 hectares of land is under sugarcane cultivation in this district with an average annual production of 59,64,546 quintals.
The organic jaggery packed with vitamins and minerals is in great demand and used in the preparation of Ayurvedic medicine, bakery and confectionery products like biscuits, bread, cakes, pastries, buns, rusks, rolls and others.
Besides these, it is also used to make chocolates, hard-boiled sweets, chewing gum and others. According to the records, India has exported over 5,51,716 metric tonnes of jaggery and confectionery products valued at Rs 2,797.84 crores in 2021 – 22.
With more and more people preferring to use jaggery known as medicinal sugar to sweeten their milk, coffee and tea, one can expect the demand and market for organic jaggery to grow significantly in the coming years. The sanction for the country’s second and state’s first organic and hi-tech jaggery factory in Kabirdham is underway and value-added products like molasses, chikki, laddu and others will help provide steady employment to the locals in the district and help the rural economy to grow.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian