With less than a month remaining for sugarcane crushing to begin in the new season, it’s time for the annual ritual of confrontation between farmers and private millers in Uttar Pradesh on the issue of price to be paid to cane growers. As every year, both the stakeholders hold diametrically opposite views on what should be the “right price” that the farmer should get for his produce. At a meeting of the cane price fixation committee under the chairmanship of Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Rajive Kumar here on Friday, the farmers demanded Rs 375-400/quintal while the millers categorically stated that they are in no condition to pay anything beyond last year’s State Advised Price (SAP) of Rs 305 per quintal.
“The cost of sugarcane production has gone up substantially. It is coming to approximately Rs 347 per quintal this year. If a minimum 5% profit is given to the farmers, the SAP should be fixed at least at Rs 375 per quintal,” said Arvind Kumar Singh, who was representing the farmers at the meeting. Pritam Chaudhary, another farmer leader who is also a member of the cane price fixation committee, says cane farmers in UP should be given a hike of at least Rs 25/quintal as has been done by the Centre in its FRP. “We are not asking for more, but at least this should be given to us by the state government, as has been done by the Centre. Every year in UP, cane farmers have to bear the brunt of cane arrears.
Even this year, despite sugar prices being good, mills have not cleared cane dues to the tune of Rs 1,300 crore,” he said, adding that the state government should either ensure timely payment or pay interest on delayed payment. However, the sugar industry, represented by the Uttar Pradesh Sugar Millers Association, says that anything beyond Rs 305 would not be acceptable to it. In a letter to the chief secretary, UPSMA secretary general Deepak Guptara has said that with UP looking at producing over 100 million tonne sugar in 2017-18, the prices of sugar, molasses and bagasse will see a fall, thereby substantially reducing the revenue in the hands of the sugar mills.
“Sugarcane prices in UP are undoubtedly higher compared to other major sugar producing states and, as such, competitiveness of sugar produced in UP and sold outside the state is questionable, placing UP at a disadvantaged position,” he said, adding that the industry has suffered continuous losses from 2011 onwards and it is barely able to stand on its feet now. The letter added that once the SAP is increased, it cannot be reduced even when the sugar prices fall.