OPSC Prelims-2022, GS: Answer Key - Download

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Sugarcane byproduct Pressmud

Syllabus: Economics[GS Paper-3]

Context: India has become the top sugar producer globally, surpassing Brazil. It is also the second-largest sugar exporter. The growth of the ethanol biofuel sector has contributed to the improvement of the sugar industry and the financial well-being of sugar mills.

What is Pressmud?

  • Pressmud, also referred to as filter cake or press cake, is a byproduct of sugar production that is derived from agricultural waste. 
  • This substance is obtained through the repetitive filtration process of cane juice prior to extracting sugar. 
  • On average, around 3-4 percent of press mud is generated per metric ton of crushed cane. 
  • Traditionally, pressmud is recycled and transformed into manure through composting, which is then distributed to local farmers for agricultural purposes. 
  • However, pressmud has also gained recognition as a valuable source of green energy. 
  • Specifically, it can be utilised to produce biogas through the process of anaerobic digestion, ultimately resulting in the creation of compressed biogas (CBG). 
  • This renewable energy source not only has environmental benefits but also serves as a rich source of micronutrients for crops and horticulture.

Difficulties associated with pressmud:

  • There are two major concerns related to pressmud – storage issues and price increase. 
  • Firstly, pressmud has a tendency to decompose gradually, which poses challenges for its long-term storage. 
    • This decomposition process not only complicates the storage process but also leads to increased production costs. 
  • Secondly, due to the recognition of its potential benefits, there has been a significant surge in pressmud prices. 
    • This increase in demand has driven up the prices, making pressmud more expensive for consumers.

Using pressmud as a feedstock for CBG production:

  • The utilisation of pressmud offers a solution to the difficulties often encountered in managing agricultural residue supply chains. 
  • In contrast to municipal solid waste, pressmud boasts a consistent quality and does not contain lignin, thereby reducing the expenses associated with pre-treatment. 
  • Moreover, when it comes to the production of CBG, pressmud proves to be a more efficient and cost-effective feedstock compared to cattle dung and other forms of agricultural residue. 
  • However, it is important to note that the rising cost of pressmud and the growing competition for its utilisation in fertilisers and bio-composting present considerable challenges.

India has various regional production and sugar mills scattered across the country:

  • The two primary states in India that make significant contributions to the cultivation of sugarcane are Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. 
  • In terms of operational sugar mills, as of the 2022-23 period, India had a total of 531 mills actively functioning. 
  • Furthermore, during this time, the country produced a substantial amount of sugar, reaching 32.74 million tonnes, along with approximately 11.4 million tonnes of pressmud.

Way Forward:

  • The potential for generating CBG from the pressmud is considerable and can lead to significant economic gains. 
  • To fully utilise this potential, it is necessary for states to enact bioenergy policies, regulate pressmud prices, and establish enduring agreements with sugar mills.
  • Additionally, it is vital to invest in research and training initiatives that focus on developing efficient storage technologies for pressmud and providing adequate training for CBG plant operators.

Source: DTE

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