The government has taken initiatives to make state-run sugar mills profitable by keeping those operational throughout the year and diversifying their activities.
Currently, there are 15 sugar mills under the Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation and those are dogged by losses, said officials.They said these sugar mills usually remain idle for 8-9 months a year when it is not crushing season but they have to provide the salaries of its officials and labourers, and continue other related activities round the year, increasing their losses.
According to an official document, the government has taken a move to keep open these mills round the year and even during the off-season through producing white sugar from imported raw sugar.
The government is now implementing a project in the North Bengal Sugar Mill to produce electricity and white sugar during the off-season through a co-generation system.
The Planning Commission has given permission to include the production of distillery, biogas and bio-compost plant using the byproducts of the sugar mills under the project.
Once the project is implemented, sugar harvesting will be increased, while its quality will be improved in addition to increased production. Besides, it will be helpful to mitigate the power deficit and increase their incomes through producing products from their byproducts.
The official document says that a pilot project has been taken by Bangladesh Sugarcrop Research Institute to produce sugar from sugar beet.It says necessary machineries are being installed in Thakurgaon Sugar Mill as part of the process of replacing the old ones to produce sugar from sugar beet on experimental basis.
To boost the income, bio-fertiliser plant has been installed at Keru and Co (BD) to use the byproduct -- 'press mud' -- of the sugar mills and byproduct of Keru distillery 'spent-wash'. Currently, the plant is producing and marketing bio-fertiliser commercially.
Another project -- 'Setting up of waste purifying plant in 14 sugar mills'-- is being implemented to make mill areas more environment-friendly one.
Meanwhile, two projects have been included in the 2018-19 fiscal year’s ADP without any allocation. These two projects are: ‘Replacement of old rotary vacuum filters, juice clarifiers and centrifugal machines in 13 sugar mills and setting up of pulp plants, fruit-processing and bottling in Rajshahi Sugar Mill.
A senior official at the Industries Ministry said the government has taken the move to diversify the activities of the sugar mills and thus make those profitable alongside creating more jobs.
"We want to optimise the use of infrastructures of the sugar mills in the interest of the country," he said.