Cane farmers take to the streets in Kolhapur over fair and remunerative price payments

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Pune | Published: December 18, 2015 12:04:51 AM

Even as Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis directed sugar mills in the state to make 80% FRP (fair and remunerative price) payments to farmers for the ongoing season of 2015-16...

Even as Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis directed sugar mills in the state to make 80% FRP (fair and remunerative price) payments to farmers for the ongoing season of 2015-16, farmer organisations have taken to the streets in Kolhapur — Maharashtra’s sugar bowl — preventing trucks from carrying sugarcane into factories over the inability expressed by mills to make payments.

At least five factories in the district are totally shut and three private sugar mills,  which include Dalmia Sugar, are now being allowed to continue crushing operations after giving in writing that they will pay the first installment according to the agreement.

Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana (SSS) has stopped the transport of sugarcane in Kolhapur district and called for a ‘chakkajam’ in Sangli district, as millers have not paid the cane price which they had agreed to in the meeting. The SSS workers, after stopping trucks on Tuesday, continued their agitation on Wednesday as well, taking out rallies in the district and stopping cane from reaching factories.

SSS workers said that they were preventing the weighing scales at factory gates from accepting cane and had succeeded in getting five factories to totally shut down operations. Kolhapur has some 22 sugar mills of which five are totally shut and the remaining 15 are also on the verge of being shut down. Millers in Kolhapur are discussing ways of finding a solution.

According to Raju Shetty of the SSS, factories were not implementing the 80:20 formula that they had agreed to at the CM’s meet in Nagpur last week, leading to the agitation. “If the millers were not in a position to make payments, why did they agree to the formula then?” he asked. The CM had called the meet after agitations by the SSS in Kolhapur over the delay in FRP payments and also factories maintaining that FRP payments would be staggered this season. Though sugarcane is supposed to be transported by farmers to the factories, in reality, the factories hire harvesting groups  who travel from farm to farm, harvest the crop and transport it to the factory. Their payment is deducted by factories from the final payment to farmers.

Going by the FRP formula fixed by the Centre, the average payment to the farmers comes to R3,070. The factories are deducting R550 from the 80% amount of the average FRP of R3,070 for harvesting and transportation. This is objected to by farmers.

Normally, FRP in Kolhapur comes up to R2,500-2,700 per quintal and this time, farmers have agreed to accept around R2,000 per quintal. However, factories say that they will be able to pay R1,700 per quintal as the first installment of 80%,” he pointed out.

Three sugar mills, including Dalmia Sugar and two other factories in Gadhinglaj taluka and Radhanagari, had agreed to give in writing to the SSS members that they will pay the FRP installment under the agreed amount.

When contacted, Sanjeev Babar, MD, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation, pointed out that only private millers had given this agreement in writing. “It will be difficult for mills to make these payments and we have been saying so from the start,” according to Babar. Earlier, Shivajirao Nagawade, chairman, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation, termed this as a one-sided decision and although the mills would make all efforts, it would be difficult for them to pay up according to the formula decided by the state.

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