India's sugar production has been higher than expected this year after the completion of cane crushing at most of its mills, industry officials said on Wednesday, with a late pick-up in rains raising output.

With the majority of India's sugar mills having now completed crushing for the 2023/24 season, output so far stands at 31.59 million metric tons, according to the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories Ltd (NFCSF).

That is down 1.8% from the previous full year, but already above the around 29 million metric tons expected at the start of the current season due to drought in Karnataka and Maharashtra states.

A handful of mills are still left to report, with only around two dozen of the 532 mills operational this season still in action, the officials said, including two in top sugar-producing state Maharashtra and 13 in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

Mills in the southern state of Karnataka and the western state of Gujarat have altogether completed cane crushing.

November rains helped the sugarcane crop, and yields improved, Ravi Gupta, executive director at Shree Renuka Sugars Ltd, a leading producer, told Reuters.

Output in Maharashtra has jumped to 11 million tonnes, up from 10.53 million tonnes produced a year ago, NFCSF said. Production in Karnataka is estimated at 5.26 million tons, lower than last year's 5.8 million tons but above initial estimates.

However Uttar Pradesh was expected to be a laggard, with production so far around 10.4 million metric tons, according to a senior industry official who did not wish to be named, and output still to be reported likely to be marginal.

It had been forecast to churn out more than 11.5 million tons of sugar this year.

Red rot disease hit the cane crop in Uttar Pradesh, while cane was diverted for the production of alternative sweeteners such as jaggery, said Avantika Saraogi, executive director at Balrampur Chini Mills, a leading producer.

(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav and Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Jan Harvey)