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UP farmers turn jittery on delay in fixing cane support price

Vishwanath Kulkarni
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Farmers are forced to sell their ratoon at lower prices

Sugarcane growers in Uttar Pradesh are getting jittery over the delay in announcement of the State Advised Price (SAP) for the 2012-13 (October-September) season by the State Government.

As a result, only about eight to ten factories have started crushing operations unlike 43-odd mills around this time last year.

“There is an immense delay in SAP announcement this year,” said V.M. Singh, Convenor of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sanghatan. He said the State Government is acting under pressure from millers to delay the SAP announcement. Such a move, while benefiting the millers in terms of better recovery as they get more of matured cane, makes it difficult for farmers to vacate the fields for planting of wheat.

In the 2011-12 sugar season, the Mayawati Government had hiked SAP for normal cane varieties to Rs 240 a quintal as opposed to Rs 205 for the previous season. Not only was the price announced on November 8 last year, but in the context of impending assembly elections, her Government even forced the millers to start early crushing.

However, this year, the UP Government has not even ensured that mills start their crushing operations around November 1, Singh said. As a result of delayed crushing, the farmers are forced to sell their ratoon cane to kolhus and crushers at a lesser price of around Rs 150-160 a quintal over the past few days, Singh said.

Record acreage

The cane that is currently being harvested is the ratoon from the plant-cane harvested last February-April. Growers in UP this year have planted a record acreage of 23.60 lakh hectares about 4 per cent more than last year. The State is set to emerge as the largest producer of the sweetener in the current season as the erratic monsoon has hurt cane crop in Maharashtra.

In Maharashtra, the cane crushing has started off to a bad start as farmers seeking a higher price have resorted to protests in the sugar belt of Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur seeking an upfront payment of Rs 300 a quintal at the farmgate.

Growers in UP this year are expecting a price of Rs 300 a quintal or 25 per cent more than last year’s price of Rs 240. Millers have indicated their inability any hike in SAP and want the Government to freeze it at last year’s levels. However, sources said the UP Government may announce a hike of Rs 20-30 a quintal over the next few days.

“We are not late in starting crushing operations,” said Abinash Verma, Director-General of Indian Sugar Mills Association. The usual trend is that mills in UP start crushing after Diwali and we expect most of the mills to start their operations soon, he said.

Simbhaoli Sugars Ltd is one of the few companies that typically start early crushing. “We have started operations at our factories in Brijnathpur and Simbhaoli on November 16 that are running at a 65 per cent capacity. We are waiting for cane arrivals at Chilwaria in Eastern UP” said G.S.C. Rao, Executive Director at Simbhaoli Sugars Ltd.

Sugar production in UP in 2012-13 is expected to be 13.7 per cent higher at 7.9 million tonnes (mt) against 6.97 mt last year.

Vishwanath.kulkarni@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 20, 2012)
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