Sugarcane farmers in Maharashtra are planning a prolonged agitation. They have decided to stick to their demand of Rs 3,000 a tonne for sugarcane from the cooperative mills.

The agitation, which commenced on Monday, has already led to the death of two farmers in police firing. Public property worth lakhs of rupees has been destroyed and normal life in Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur districts has been completely thrown out of gear.

Almost 60 per cent of the State’s sugarcane production is from these three districts. The 30 most profitable cooperative mills are also located in these three districts. Due to the agitation and farmers’ militant activities they have also shut down their operations.

Rising costs

Chief of Maharashtra Shetkari Sangthana Raghunathdada Patil told Business Line that farmers’ demand of Rs 3,000 is very appropriate because cooperative sugar mills are selling sugar at Rs 3,300 a tonne. There are enough margins for the mills, he said.

Patil added that selling sugarcane at Rs 2,300 is not viable for farmers because production cost has shot up. Prices of certain fertilisers have increased four times and diesel prices have also increased considerably.

“If we further extend the agitation, market price of sugar will shoot up to Rs 50/kg. Farmers can afford to extend their agitation because unlike other agriculture products sugarcane is not perishable. We could extend it till December,” Patil said.

Last week, the mills had announced that they would be buying sugarcane at Rs 2,300 a tonne, while the fair and remunerative price (FRP) announced by the State Government was Rs 2,037 at 11.5 per cent sugar recovery. While last year, FRP was Rs 1,700, which was again not acceptable to the farmers. They had managed to get a rate of Rs 2,400 after a protracted struggle.

Co-op mills

Cooperation Secretary of Maharashtra Government, Rajgopal Deora, told Business Line that giving higher prices for sugarcane falls within the purview of cooperative sugar mills. “The State Government would not be intervening in the matter. It would not be providing any kind of financial support to the farmers and the sugar mills,” he said.

“Cooperative sugar mills are business enterprises and they should take all the business decisions on their own,” he added.

Veteran leader and chief of Shetkari Sangthana, Sharad Joshi, said that the whole fight over the prices of the sugarcane is about the freedom and rights of the farmers.

As the cooperative sugar mills are getting unshackled from the Government control and making more money, the farmers should get benefit from the mills, he said.