The sugar industry plays a significant role in India’s agricultural economy - sugarcane and sugar have been and continue to be important commodities of trade and livelihood. India has a long tradition of manufacturing sugar. References of sugar making by the Indians are found even in the Atharva Veda. India is rightly called the homeland of sugar. But in ancient times, only gur and khandsari were made and modem sugar industry came on the Indian scene only in the middle of the 19th century, when it was introduced by the Dutch in North Bihar in about 1840.
Today, the industry is a vital cog in India’s rural development as the country’s second largest agro-based industry, next only to cotton. It directly or indirectly impacts the livelihoods of over 5 crore farmers and their dependents, involved in cultivating sugarcane in an area of almost 50 lakh hectares. In addition, 5 lakh workers in sugar mills and another 10 lakh workers, through indirect means, draw their livelihoods from the sugar industry.*
India is the largest consumer and the second largest producer of sugar, topped by Brazil. It is the second largest agro-based processing industry of the country, topped by cotton textile industry.
*NITI Aayog Report - March 2020