Proposal for continuation of subsidy on harvesters gathers dust

By: | Published: January 23, 2016 1:43 AM

A proposal seeking continuity of subsidy on the purchase of harvesters by farmers and sugar mills has been gathering dust with the government...

A proposal seeking continuity of subsidy on the purchase of harvesters by farmers and sugar mills has been gathering dust with the  government. Despite the start of the sugar season, the proposal is yet to be taken up by the government, senior officials said.

The government in a bid to promote the use of harvesters offers a subsidy on the purchase of harvesters through the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY).

A subsidy of Rs 50 crore is given through the RKVY every year to encourage the use of harvesters. Around Rs 50 crore has been disbursed till date on the purchase of harvesters in the state and some 2016 harvesters have been in use by obtaining the subsidy and another 19-20 harvesters have been purchased before the announcement of the subsidy, officials pointed out.

The RKVY scheme had been in effect for the past 5 years and after the expiry of the scheme, the Maharashtra Sugar Commissionerate sent a proposal to the government seeking the continuation of the subsidy. Harvesters account for barely 3-4%  of the total crushing and the remaining cane is cut manually. The government has been hoping to encourage the use of harvesters and increase the percentage of cutting cane through machines. However the machines are very expensive and cost around R1 crore to R1.5 crore. Until now, the government had granted subsidy for harvesters to the tune of 50% of the price of the machine to individual and farmers’ groups, and 25% to factories.

Even after a government subsidy of R25 lakh, not many farmers can afford the equipment. The reasons are simple.

Landholdings of several farmers are very small and the machine requires to be used only during the havesting time.

These machines however, have emerged as an option for several mills that found themselves hard pressed for physical workers.

An official said that last year one of the factories entirely took care of its crushing operations through harvesters. The use of harvestors is on the rise and needs to be encouraged as well but a balance has to be maintained between the use of machines and physical labour, senior officials said.

Officials, however, claim that in a sugar season of about 160 days, one harvester can cut 12,000 tonne of cane. One harvester can cut around 100 tonne of sugarcane in 16 hours in a day while a group of workers can cut only 16 tonne of cane per day. At present, workers receive wages of R190 per tonne while payment for harvesters is around Rs 450 per tonne.

A couple of workers can cut up to 2 tonne of cane a day while a harvester can cut up to 60 tonnes per day. On the price front, it costs around R265 to cut one tonne of cane using a harvester, while manual labour costs around Rs 300 a day. Last year, some 37 farmers were given grants. The government has been encouraging the use of harvesters.

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