Even as the sugar season of 2016-17 has ended, farmer organisations in Maharashtra are getting restive over the remaining cane payments due to farmers. According to farmer organisations, none of the factories in the state has paid the second instalment to farmers. On the contrary, Ganadevi Cooperative Sugar Factory, Surat in Gujarat has made a total payment of Rs 4,441 per tonne at a recovery rate of 12.5% causing ripples in the industry. Farmer organisations feel that if factories in Gujarat can make cane payments, there is no reason for sugar factories in Maharashtra to make payments to farmers.
While the Raju Shetty led Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana has demanded Rs 500 per tonne as the second cane instalment, the Punjabrao Patil led Baliraja Shetkari Sanghatana has demanded Rs 1,000 per tonne as the second instalment of the cane payment. Raju Shetty, president, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana said that the issue would be raised in the upcoming Cane Control Board meeting to be held in Mumbai on May 22. He said that he would also demand a statement of accounts from sugar factories on the total payments made to factories so far.
Punjabrao Patil, president, Balirajaj Shetkari Sanghatana has threatened an indefinite hunger strike opposite the office of the Maharashtra Sugar Commissionerate unless the factories pay Rs 1,000 per tonne as the second instalment to farmers. He said that most factories had made the first cane payments ranging from Rs 2,000 per tonne to Rs 2,400 in some regions and Rs 2,600-2,800 per tonne in sugar-rich regions of Kolhpur, Sangli and Satara.
“Usually, the first payment is made within the first 15 days of crushing, the second payment comes to farmers at the end of the season and the finally payment is made during Diwali. From last year, the focus has been on Fair and Remunerative Price ( FRP) payments and the rest is forgotten. None of the mills in the state has made the second cane payment to farmers who require money for the purchase of seeds and other inputs at the start of the new Kharif season,” he said.
According to him, sugar prices have also risen and therefore mills have been getting enough funds in addition to the value-added payments coming from the sale of molasses, ethanol and cogeneration. When contacted Sanjeev Babar, MD, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation said that the Cane Control Board meeting is slated for May 22 and a solution is likely to emerge at the meeting.
Significantly, production in 2016-17 was the lowest in a decade in the state due to lower availability of sugarcane following two consecutive drought years. About 150 sugar mills crushed 372 lakh tonne of sugarcane during 2016-17, less than half of 743 lakh tonne crushed in the previous year. Last year, the number of sugar mills in operation came down from 177 as 27 mills could not operate due to cane unavailability.