So far, the Commissionerate has approved of crushing licences for 145 sugar mills and some 46 factories have begun crushing, senior officials said.
The crushing licences of 64 sugar mills in Maharashtra have been withheld for the sugar season of 2021-22, as they are yet to pay the full amount of the fair and remunerative price (FRP) to farmers for the last crushing season, senior officials of the Maharashtra Sugar Commissionerate said. These mills owe farmers around Rs 600 crore in cane dues, sugar commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said.
“These mills have stated that they have entered into agreements with farmers and have cited this as a reason for the delay in cane payments. The Commissionerate has informed mills that they can seek crushing licences once the agreement period with farmers is completed,” he said. So far, the Commissionerate has approved of crushing licences for 145 sugar mills and some 46 factories have begun crushing, senior officials said.
Gaikwad said the clear picture about FRP payments for the new season will emerge only at the end of November when most mills will begin crushing operations for the new season. Earlier, the Commissionerate had colour-coded sugar mills based on their payment history. The step was taken to provide a ready guide for sugarcane farmers to decide where to sell their sugarcane.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL) has instructed the Sugar Commisionerate to ask the mills to deduct the power supply dues from the sugar cane payment to be made to the farmers. The farmers from the sugarcane belt have pending bills worth hundreds of crores for the power consumed for irrigation from the past two years.
The Sugar Commissioner pointed out that there was no provision for the sugar commissionerate or the sugar factories to recover power bills on behalf of the state electricity board. The mill owners have asked the MSEDCL officials to provide a written consent from farmers to deduct the amount from the cane payments.
MSEDCL has not just asked the mills to deduct the amount but has also promised 10% reward of the amount they deduct from the sugar cane payment. During a recent meeting, which was attended by managing directors and general managers of mills of Solapur, Pune, Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli, MSEDCL officers stated that the total unpaid dues amounted to nearly Rs 10,000 crore to be recovered from 12 lakh farmers. The cumulative dues of the entire state amount to nearly Rs 40,000 crore from the agriculture sector, Ankush Nale, regional director, Pune, said.
Significantly, the state government has guaranteed loans worth Rs 28 crore to two sugar factories. The state has guaranteed a loan worth Rs 10 crore to the Rajgad cooperative sugar factory in Pune district and the other loan worth Rs 18 crore to the Sahakar Shiromani Vasantrao Kale sugar factory in Pandharpur. Last year, the government had extended guarantees for loans worth Rs 516 crore to 32 sugar factories.
The government said cooperative sugar factories were finding it difficult to get loans from cooperative banks after new NABARD guidelines were enforced which required the borrower to have a positive net disposable resource.
This season, farmers in Maharashtra have cultivated cane on 12.32 lakh hectares as compared to 11.42 lakh hectares last year. Sugar production is estimated to touch around 112 lakh tonne of sugar. So far, factories have crushed around 18.35 lakh tonne of sugar to produce around 13.31 lakh quintals of sugar.