The meeting called by Maharashtra’s cooperation minister Subhash Deshmukh with sugar factory representatives and farmer organisations, who have been demanding a first cane installment of Rs 3,400 per tonne, ended in a deadlock on Thursday. With the government refusing to give in to the demand, farmer bodies have now decided to get more aggressive and continue their agitation for a better price. The state’s sugar season has gotten off to a violent start with cane workers being prevented from cutting cane, vehicle tyres being deflated and vehicles being prevented from reaching factories by farmer organisation members. Farmer body Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) — one of the most aggressive organisations in the state — has demanded a first cane installment of Rs 3,400 per tonne while the Raghunathdada Patil-led Shetkari Sanghatana has demanded a a first cane installment of Rs 3,500 per tonne. SSS leader Raju Shetti said that the government and the factories did not relent and the meeting ended in a stalemate.
” The agitation will now get more aggressive and we shall not allow cane to reach factories,” he told FE. There is no question of holding any more meetings with them, he said. According to Maharashtra sugar commissioner Sambhaji Kadu Patil, the government role is very clear here and as per the decision taken earlier, farmers will be paid as per the Rangarajan Committee formula of 70:30. Sugar factories will pay the first cane installment as per Fair and Remunerative Price ( FRP) decided by the Centre, he said. Farmer bodies, however, are not willing to relent and therefore there was no decision at the meet, he said.
Senior representatives of the Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation ( MSCSFF) said that the factories have decided to stick to the decision to pay the first cane installment as per FRP. This is because cane recoveries of different regions are different and therefore giving the kind of payment as decided by the farmer organisations is economically unviable, senior officials said, adding that if you have to factor in the pledge loan ( which is 85% of the value of the sugar bag pledged by mills to the bank), harvesting and transportation costs, there is very little money left with mills.
Sugar prices that were above Rs 3,600 per tonne have dropped to Rs 3,500 per tonne and there is speculation in the market that prices may fall further slip to Rs 3,200 per tonne, which makes a high first cane installment difficult, the official pointed out. Around 16 sugar factories in the state have commenced crushing so far and more are expected to join during the course of the week. Farmer bodies have been resorting to rasta roko, chakka jam and preventing vehicles from transporting cane to factories. Nearly five years ago, a farmer was killed when the police had opened fire to control a crowd of farmland activists which had led to even more violent protests across the state.