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Ethanol: TN sugar mills, cane farmers bet on legal remedy

R Balaji Chennai | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on October 26, 2016

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State govt policy not conducive to take part in blended fuel programme: PIL

Cash-strapped sugar mills and sugarcane farmers are pinning their hopes on a public interest litigation (PIL) in the High Court to enable them to participate in the Centre’s ethanol-blended fuel programme in the coming year.

Last week, oil marketing companies called tenders from the sugar industry to supply over 200 crore litres of ethanol for the national ethanol-blended fuel programme.

But, with the programme not taking off previously in Tamil Nadu because of State government policy, sugar mills and farmers are betting on a legal resolution to the issue to enable them to participate in the current tender.

On Wednesday, responding to the PIL filed earlier this year by the Consortium of Indian Farmers Association (CIFA) representing sugar farmers, the High Court insisted that an independent committee may be formed to look into the implementation of the programme in Tamil Nadu. The Central and State governments have to recommend a list of experts, it said in the hearing today.

Limited output

In the PIL the farmers’ consortium approached the court after that the State government, in an order of September 2015, had allowed distilleries to produce just 50 lakh litres of ethanol and conversion of 10 lakh litres of impure spirit against a total requirement of 20.18 crore litres a year.

The situation has so far not changed and the policy environment is not conducive for the ethanol programme to take off in the State, said association representatives.

If the ethanol-blended fuel programme does not take off, the sugar mills are also denied the Centre’s support in incentives.

The Centre had earlier announced sugar export incentives and sugarcane production incentives to enable sugar mills to pay farmers on the condition that they supply ethanol for the fuel blending programme.

A counsel for CIFA said the farmers have also represented that the sugar mills in Tamil Nadu owe them over ₹1,200 crore in sugarcane overdues under the statutory Fair and Remunerative Pricing for sugarcane.

If the higher State Advised Price is taken into account the dues mount to a few thousand crore.

Published on October 26, 2016
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