Agri Business

Maharashtra sugar mills pay 76% of fair and remunerative price to ryots

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on March 27, 2019

Pledge to clear all dues before polling season ends; farmers still owed ₹4,742 crore

Even as the cane crushing season comes to an end, sugar mills in Maharashtra have not paid the full Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) to farmers and sugar barons across party lines are promising to pay arrears before the end of the poll season.

In all, 193 sugar mills in the State have crushed over 90,523 lakh tonnes (lt) of sugarcane, producing over 101 lt of sugar. Out of ₹19,623 crore payable as FRP, mills have paid ₹14,881 crore, while farmers are demanding immediate payment of arrears of ₹4,742 crore.

FRP is the minimum price to be paid by sugar mills to the cane growers who provide cane to the mills. The Sugarcane (Control) Order, 1966, stipulates payment of the cane price within 14 days of supply, failing which interest at the rate of 15 per cent per annum on the amount due for the delayed period beyond 14 days is payable. Sugarcane farming is the source of livelihood for nearly 2.5 crore people living in rural Maharashtra.

Political links

While the majority of sugar mills in the sugar belt of western Maharashtra are controlled by the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, satraps from the BJP and Shiv Sena in the region and in other parts of the State have joined the sugar mill lobby. In fact, sugar mills are the lifeline of State politics. However, unlike Uttar Pradesh, where FRP arrears have become a simmering political issue, it is not an election agenda in Maharashtra.

Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), a leading farmers’ organisation, which came into existence fighting for sugarcane farmers, has joined hands with the Congress and NCP alliance for the Lok Sabha poll. SSS leader and MP Raju Shetti is confident that sugar mills will pay the pending FRP. “ We have launched several agitations against all party leaders even before the elections started. If required, we will again fight for farmers,” he said.

State Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said that action has been initiated against 49 sugar mills that have failed to pay FRP. He added that about 90 per cent of the FRP will be deposited in farmers’ accounts before sugar mills close the crushing season.

FRP is fixed on the basis of the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) in consultation with various State Governments and associations of the sugar industry and the cane growers. The sugar lobby in the State has been saying that excess sugar production and depressed domestic sugar prices have led to accumulation of cane price arrears.

Sugar production in India during the last sugar season (2017-18) was about 322 lt, which is the highest production so far in the country. Sugar production during current sugar season (2018-19) is estimated to be about 315 lt, which is almost on the same level as the previous season.

Published on March 27, 2019

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