Farmer organisations in Maharashtra are on the warpath on the issue of cane payments and have threatened agitations to get the entire payment as promised at the start of the season. The Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), one of the more aggressive farmer organisations in the state, has threatened an agitator in Solapur on February 16 and another in Kolhapur on February 17.
With sliding sugar prices, several mills in Maharashtra have expressed their inability to make cane payments and some of them have been giving reduced prices to farmers. As per discussions at the start of the season, sugar millers from south Maharashtra had agreed to pay Rs 200 per tonne over and above the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP).
The start of the season was in jeopardy with both millers and farmer organisations disagreeing over the first cane installment to be made to growers. While millers insisted on payment of FRP as the first installment of cane price, cane growers led by SSS had demanded `3,400 per tonne as the cane payment. There was also violence at the start of the season when cane workers were prevented from cutting the crop, vehicle tyres were deflated to prevent them from reaching factories by farmer organisation members. Growers in Kolhapur and Sangli are expected to be paid `2,600 per tonne and `3,250 per tonne of the crushed cane. The highest FRP is expected to be around `3,250 per tonne at a recovery rate of 13%.
Raju Shetti, MP from Kolhapur and SSS chief made it clear that millers should be prepared to pay farmers as per the agreed formula and not make sliding sugar prices an excuse for not making payments.
“ Sugar prices are being manipulated by few elements in the sector so that millers do not have to share revenue as per the Rangarajan Committee recommendations,” Shetty said. He alleged that several private mills were also into trading and were making purchases by their own trading companies to sell these later at higher rates. He cited the example of what had happened in the case of soybean.
“Soybean prices had fallen below MSP and farmers were forced to sell at `2,000 per quintal and now prices are up at `4,000 per quintal and farmers do not have any soybean left with them. A similar situation is now seen in the sugar sector,” Shetti alleged.
Shetti said that even the RBI governor Urjit Patel had recently spoken about market volatility for farm produce and had urged SEBI to keep track of market movements.