Amid widespread criticism over the abrupt and sudden order to stop using sugarcane juice for ethanol, the food ministry has announced that oil marketing companies would allocate the quantity of ethanol they intend to purchase from each distillery mentioning how much the biofuel is to be made from which feedstock. However, there is no mention of lifting the ban in the fresh order.

In a communication to all sugar mills and distilleries late at night on December 16, the food ministry said that “in continuation” to the earlier Order of December 7 that banned cane juice/syrup for ethanol, instructions have been issued to oil marketing companies (OMCs) under clause 4 and clause 5 of the Sugar (Control) Order 1966.

Accordingly, “OMCs will issue a revised allocation of Sugarcane Juice (SCJ) and B Heavy Molasses (BHM) based ethanol for ethanol supply year (ESY) 2023-24 (November-October), to each distillery, and inform the food ministry after placement of revised contracts,” the letter said.

Further, on receipt of such communication from OMCs for the revised quantity of SCJ- and BHM-based ethanol, all sugar mills and distilleries will supply ethanol strictly as per the revised quantity of SCJ & BHM ethanol and no diversion of sugarcane juice and B Heavy molasses is allowed for the production of Rectified Spirit (RS)/Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA), the ministry said.

Also, the ministry has asked all molasses-based distilleries to endeavour and make ethanol from C Heavy molasses.

Food Secretary Sanjeev Chopra, who has been quoted by PTI, has clarified that the latest order gives flexibility to use both cane juice and B heavy molasses within the overall cap on diversion of sucrose up to 17 lakh tonnes (lt) in the current ESY. The decision is said to have arrived on Friday at the meeting of the committee of ministers, headed by Home Minister Amit Shah.

As much as six lt of sucrose has been diverted for making ethanol from cane juice before the ban, sources said.

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