In 2021-2022, India surpassed Brazil to become the largest sugar producer in the world, producing 359 lakh tonnes – an all-time high. But this isn’t sweet news: with the resources that go into making all that sugar dwindling at an alarming rate, India’s sugar market might slip into its biggest crisis ever in the coming decades.
For farmers across most of India, sugarcane is one of the most profitable cash crops. This has led to chronic over-cultivation of sugarcane, reflected in the country’s sugar surplus and high sugar exports. The impact of this on the country’s groundwater is, however, disastrous – and it has also been overlooked. If we don’t address the chronic overuse of groundwater in the sugar industry soon and effectively, India’s agricultural sector will be at risk of collapse.