With the sugar season in Maharashtra entering its last leg, 35 factories continue to have pending fair and remunerative price (FRP) arrears of about R250 crore for the 2014-15 season.
According to sugar commissioner Vipin Sharma, 35 factories still have to clear their payments for the last season. They include those mills that could not crush cane this year and mills that have received suspension licences. The commissioner expressed concern over those mills that have not been able to crush this season, saying how dues could be recovered from such mills.
So far in the season, the Sugar Commissionerate has re-instated licences of 7 mills that have cleared payments. However, 6 mills have approached the cooperation minister and the commissionerate is awaiting the minister’s decision.
The Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court has issued a “simple notice” to Sharma while hearing a contempt petition filed by Prahlad Ingole, the Nanded district president of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana. Ingole had filed the petition over the delay in deciding the payment of interest on cane dues by the 23 mills in Nanded division for the crushing season of 2014-15. The high court in its order had pushed the ball in the court of Sharma to decide the matter in a time-bound manner.
Sharma, during the course of the hearing, had ordered the regional joint director (RJD) of Nanded to calculate the interest. Meanwhile, seven mills in the region had moved the high court over payment issues, which has halted the process of Sharma’s decision-making. Sharma said that the commissionerate will file its say in the court.
Meanwhile, sugar factories in the drought-struck areas of the state have begun shutting down operations. Some 20 mills have shut operations for the want of cane, top officials of the Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation said. These mills are from Marathwada and Solapur regions, Sanjeev Babar, MD of the federation, said. He expected majority of the mills in Marathwada region to complete crushing operations by February and remaining mills in the state to finish crushing by March this year.
In Maharashtra, 177 sugar mills operated during the current season. Of which 13 sugar mills have closed their crushing operations by January 31 this year. Sugar production during the current season up to January 31 was 54.42 lakh tonne, as compared to 54.37 lakh tonne produced in 2014-15 till January 31 2015. As on date, 164 sugar mills are under operation in the state as compared to 176 mills operated last year on corresponding date, as per data by the Indian Sugar Mills Association.