Cane farmers in Maharashtra continue to wait for payments from millers as the state’s fair and remunerative price (FRP) arrear position remains a concern with dues piling up to Rs 5,326.36 crore.
As on January 15, sugar factories have paid Rs 5,166.99 crore to farmers, while the arrears are about `5,320.4 crore, senior officials at the Sugar Commissionerate said. The total payable FRP as on January 15 was `10,487.3 crore. According to officials, around 42.68 MT of cane was crushed until January 15. Factories have made around 49% of the FRP payment, officials said.
Sugar commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said the FRP payments have gone up and the position may improve in the next fortnight as well. Factories, however, have been making payments to farmers in instalments. Farmer outfit Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghantana, however, has been insisting on FRP in a single instalment and has threatened to stage a morcha outside the office of the Commssionerate on January 28.
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Raju Shetti, leader of the organisation, claimed only 11 factories in Maharashtra had paid FRP to farmers in a single amount. Kolhapur and Sangli FRP comes up to `2,900 to `3,050 per quintal and it is not very difficult for them to make payment to farmers. However, these factories had only paid `2,400 per quintal to them and had promised to make the rest of the payment during Diwali which means they do not have to make the final bill payments, he said, alleging that this was a conspiracy by millers against farmers. Shetti also alleged ministers and even the chief minister in private were telling millers to go ahead and make part-payments and assuring them that no action would be taken by the government against them.
He said the Sanghatana remains insistent on FRP in single instalment and would stage a morcha on January 28. The Sanghatana started its agitation on January 1,2019, when Shetti warned the government that farmers of the state would launch the statewide agitation if the state government did not impound the properties of sugar mills by January 28.
In the following days, the protesters went on rampage primarily in Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Solapur districts and brought activities related to harvesting and transportation of the crop in the state to a standstill. The recent protests were sparked by sugar mills’ decision to pay farmers a rate of `2,300 for every tonne of cane crushed, even as the FRP is `2,850 per tonne. Around 37 factories in Sangli and Kolhapur districts have been served notices by the office of sugar commissioner for the violation of the Sugarcane Control Act.
Sugar millers in Maharashtra had earlier met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai with a plea to urge the Centre to intervene and increase the minimum floor price of sugar from the existing `2,900 per quintal to `3,400 per quintal to overcome the current financial distress. Millers across Kolhapur, Sangli and other parts of Maharashtra have expressed their inability for FRP payments to farmers in a single instalment.
Following the rampage, millers last week reached an interim truce with farmers and factories agreed not to release FRP unless the government hikes the minimum floor price of sugar to `3,400 per quintal.