Violent start for Maharashtra sugar season as farmers go on rampage

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Pune | Published: November 1, 2017 4:29:08 AM

A day before Maharashtra's cane season formally commences on November 1, farmer organisations in the state have gone on a rampage. Farmers blocked tractors and deflated tyres of vehicles during separate protests held to demand higher purchase prices for sugarcane.

Violent start, sugar season, Maharashtra sugar season, farmers go on rampage, Maharashtra farmers go on rampage, Violent start for Maharashtra sugar seasonA day before Maharashtra’s cane season formally commences on November 1, farmer organisations in the state have gone on a rampage. (Image: Reuters)

A day before Maharashtra’s cane season formally commences on November 1, farmer organisations in the state have gone on a rampage. Farmers blocked tractors and deflated tyres of vehicles during separate protests held to demand higher purchase prices for sugarcane. A group of farmers in Kolhapur halted tractors supplying harvested sugarcane to a mill, while another group of cultivators deflated tyres of tractors in Solapur district. Separate incidents of violence occurred in Kolhapur, Satara, Sangli and Ahmednagar among other places, allegedly by members of the farmer organisation Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana ( SSS). The Sanghatana is also reported to have put a stop to cane harvesting in places. SSS, a farmer organisation led by Kolhapur MP Raju Shetti, usually sets the tone for the season by making a formal demand for cane prices. Shetti said that factories would not be allowed to operate unless they take a decision on the first cane installment. Several factories have had their boiler opening ceremonies but they are yet to declare their prices. This time, the organisation has demanded a first cane installment of Rs 3,400 per tonne. The Centre, meanwhile, has declared Rs 3,000 per tonne as purchase price for sugarcane. Sugar mills have shown willingness to pay the price to cultivators but Shetti has demanded a higher rate — Rs 3,400 per tonne. Another farmer organisation, the Raghunathdada Patil-led Shetkari Sanghatana, has demanded a cane price of Rs 3,500 per tonne as the first installment.
Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation ( MSCSFF) chairman Shivajirao Nagawade indicated that the millers would would only be able to pay the first installment as per FRP (fair and remunerative price). The Western India Sugar Mills Association ( WISMA) has also shared a similar sentiment. Shetti, meanwhile, has already said that sugar mills can give a rate of Rs 3,400 per tonne. Farmers are in dire need and not agreeing to our demand will have some consequences, he had warned. Hours after Shetti made the comments in Jaysinghpur in Kolhapur district, farmers took to streets and halted tractors supplying sugarcane to mills. This year, the Centre has increased the FRP by Rs 300 per tonne. Most mills offer a minimum of Rs 2,400 per tonne and maximum of Rs 2,900 per tonne and banks offer an 85% pledge amount on the sugar produced by these mills, industry sources said. This year, Karnataka has offered a first cane installment of Rs 3,000 per tonne.

The ban on sugar export has put stress on the finances of sugar mills but it does not mean they do not have funds to pay a better price to sugarcane cultivators, industry observers said.Prices of the sweetener are low but rates of sugar byproducts have not dipped. Byproducts, like ethanol and molasses, are fetching good prices for sugar mills and they should pass on a part of this revenue to farmers. Maharashtra Ustod Kamgar Vahtuk Majoor Va Mukadam Sanghatana state secretary Shrirang Bhanage said that around 15 lakh casual cane workers are expected to participate in the crushing season. This includes 11 lakh workers in Maharashtra and anther 4 lakh workers in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu. A rate of `228 per tonne has been decided as the basic wage for workers, he said.

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