Ahead of the cane crushing season which is set to commence from October 20 in Maharashtra, the Raghunathdada Patil-led Shetkari Sanghatana has demanded a first cane installment of Rs 3,500 per tonne for farmers from sugar millers in the state.
Patil, who was addressing a cane meet, said the farmer organisation will not allow the cane season to begin unless the millers agree to this rate. He also demanded that the remaining Rs 200 per tonne of the FRP of the last season should also be paid by millers to farmers.
Citing the example of Gujarat where farmers get Rs 4,700 per tonne, he said there is no reason why farmers in Maharashtra cannot get a similar amount. He pointed out that the base recovery percentage of FRP has gone up to 10% from 9.5% and this could lead to losses for farmers.
The Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) — the farmer outfit which has been aggressive on this front — will be holding its annual cane meet on October 27 in Jaisinghpur near Kolhapur in Maharashtra where the Sanghatana members will put forth their demands for the first installment before millers. Last season, SSS had demanded a first cane installment of `3,400 per tonne for the crushing season.
The Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation (MSCSFF) has said cane payment are made to farmers as per the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) decided by the Centre.
The Centre has fixed the FRP and there is a procedure involved as per the Cane Control Order for the payment of FRP, Sanjay Khatal, MD of the federation pointed out, stating that it has now become a trend for farmer outfits to hold agitations for the maximum payments at the start of the season without taking all factors into consideration.
In Gujarat, the first payment is of `1,200 per tonne at the start of the season, the second installment of `1,000 in March and the last installment is paid in September which does not place any financial burden on any mill or farmer, he said.
“In Maharashtra, since the first installment is high, the millers have to borrow from the banks to make payments to farmers and the interest burden falls upon millers. It also becomes difficult for the millers to make payments later because of the interest burden. Therefore, farmer organisations should also take a holistic view before placing demands for a high cane installment,” he said.
Mills in Maharashtra still owe `222 crore in cane dues to farmers from the previous season. Maharashtra Sugar Commissioner Sambhaji Kadu Patil has warned millers in the state to clear pending fair and remunerative price (FRP) dues of farmers for the previous year before the start of the season. The state’s new sugar season is slated to commence from October 20. The commissioner has made it clear that no new crushing licenses will be issued to defaulting mills unless the dues are cleared by the factories.
When contacted, he said around 196 factories have applied online for the crushing licenses and these licenses will be given after conducting due scrutiny. Of these, 100 are cooperative factories and remaining are private mills. Around 169 mills have fulfilled all the necessary criteria for getting the crushing licenses.
Revenue and recovery certificate (RRC) action has been taken against 22 mills. The pending FRP dues of Maharashtra now amount to `222 crore as on September 30, down from `336.15 crore as on September 15. There is enough time for the season to start and of the 37 mills which still have FRP dues, only 3 mills have made payments of less than 70%.