MUMBAI, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Sugar mills in India's top producing western state of Maharashtra are allowed to start crushing operations from Nov. 5, nearly a month earlier than previously fixed commencement date, a senior government official told Reuters.
The state government had earlier asked mills to start operations from Dec. 1.
The government advanced crushing over concerns that large amounts of cane may be diverted for the production of unrefined sugar jaggery and mills in neighbouring Karnataka state may procure cane from the state, the official said on Wednesday.
Due to droughts, sugar production in Maharashtra is likely to drop nearly 40 percent to 5 million tonnes in the 2016/17 season started on Oct. 1 compared with a year earlier. This could force India, the world's biggest sugar consumer, to import as much as 2 million tonnes of sugar. (Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Amrutha Gayathri)