Sugar mills in Maharashtra that have failed to make full fair and remunerative price (FRP) payments for the season of 2014-15 find themselves being increasingly cornered. Around 51 such mills in the state have been issued notices for their failure to clear up their pending FRP dues, top officials of the Maharashtra sugar commissionerate said. These mills owe farmers FRP dues to the tune of R400 crore for the last season.
Should these mills fail to clear up their dues by December 31, they become liable for suspension of their crushing licences for the ongoing season and thereafter a penalty of R500 per tonne for the cane crushed, Vipin Sharma, Maharashtra sugar commissioner, told FE. This is part of the strategy to keep up the momentum and step up pressure so that these mills do not default on payments. Significantly, some of the defaulters in the list include top politicians from Maharashtra.
Mills also have been directed to make FRP payments under a 80:20 formula for the season of 2015-16 in a meeting held by the chief minister with mill owners in Nagpur recently. According to reports, several mills in Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli region have begun making payments for the ongoing season. However data is yet to collated, officials said.
According to the commissioner, around 178 mills had crushed cane last season of which 71 mills were called for hearings for their failire to make FRP payments to farmers. These 71 mills had submitted affidavits stating that they would pay up pending dues within a month of starting the new crushing season. Pending FRP dues for the last season came up to R670 crore. Of these 71 mills, 20 mills have made FRP payments in full while 51 mills made part payments. These 51 mills now owe farmers dues worth R400 crore.
Interestingly, Maharashtra ministers including Pankaja Munde, Eknath Khadse, Congress leader Ashok Chavan figure on the list of defaulters. Other defaulters include former cooperation minister Harshavadhan Patil, Vike Jayant Patil, Sanjay Kaka Patil, Vijaysinh Mohite Patil. Pankaja Munde’s mill Vaidyanath mill owe farmers R2.88 crore while Khadse’s mill owe farmers R1.72 crore while Ashok Chavan ‘s four mills owe farmers R28.6 crore. Total dues from the 51 odd mills amount to R386 crore and another 14 mills that crushed in the last season but have not crushed for the current season have arrears to the tune of R126 crore for the last season.