After keeping the cane advisory price constant for four consecutive years on the demands from the struggling sugar industry, the government in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh on Friday finally turned its attention to 5 million cane farmers in the state and announced a hike of R25 per quintal across all the three varieties of sugarcane.
The state cabinet, which gave its approval to the State Advisory Price (SAP), also decided that sugar factories would make the cane payments to farmers in a single tranche, unlike last year, when the government had allowed the industry to pay the farmers in two instalments.
So while the early variety of sugarcane has seen a hike from R290 to R315 per quintal, the common variety, that forms the bulk of cane produced, has seen a hike from R280 per quintal to R305 per quintal and the rejected variety has seen a hike from R275 to R300 per quintal.
The Samajwadi Party government had previously increased the SAP by R40 to R280/quintal for the common sugarcane variety in 2012-13, immediately after it came to power, and had maintained it at that level for the past three seasons. The last three years saw the government ducking the issue, mainly because the industry was going through a massive slump globally.
It may be mentioned that Uttar Pradesh, the second largest sugar producer in the country, declares its own SAP for cane, which is typically higher than the fair and remunerative price (FRP) announced by the Centre. Hence, sugarcane growers in the poll-bound Uttar Pradesh had been looking forward to a sizeable increase in the State Advised Price (SAP) for the cane in the current 2016-17 season. At the recent initial consultations, UP farmers have demanded that the state fix the SAP at R350 a quintal, while the industry has suggested that the government link up the cane price to that of sugar.
“Though farmers were demanding R350 a quintal, we were expecting that there will be an increase of R20-30 in SAP this year,” said Sudhir Panwar of Kisan Jagriti Manch, a farmers’ forum, adding that since most farmers have been switching over to the high yielding and early maturing varieties such as CO-238 and CO-239 in parts of western and central UP, they would stand to gain from an increase in SAP. “More than 50 per cent of the area in the western and central UP has early maturing varieties,” Panwar added.
It may be mentioned that last year, the Centre had fixed R230 as FRP rate for every quintal of sugarcane. However, this year, the Centre has been considering an increase in FRP rate after considering the hike in the cost of production. However, there have been reports of how the industry has been trying to exercise pressure on the government, thereby forcing the Centre to show reluctance towards revising the FRP.
VM Singh of Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan felt that the hike was too little. “Farmers have been taken for a ride for the last four years. The present Samajwadi Party government came to power in 2012 on the promise that they will announce the sugarcane SAP at R350/quintal. We have been demanding R350/quintal for the last four years when sugar was selling at R3,200 per tonne. And even now, when sugar is selling at R3,800 per tonne, we are yet to see the R350/quintal mark,” he said.