Maharashtra sugar millers meet CM Devendra Fadnavis amid farmer protests

By: | Published: January 9, 2019 2:47 AM

Sugar millers in Maharashtra on Tuesday met chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai once again with a plea to urge the Centre to intervene and increase the minimum floor price (MFP) of sugar from the existing `2,900 per quintal to `3,400 to overcome the current distress.

Maharashtra sugar millers meet CM Devendra Fadnavis amid farmer protests (Reuters)

Sugar millers in Maharashtra on Tuesday met chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai once again with a plea to urge the Centre to intervene and increase the minimum floor price (MFP) of sugar from the existing Rs 2,900 per quintal to Rs 3,400 to overcome the current distress.

Millers across Kolhapur, Sangli and other parts of Maharashtra have expressed their inability to pay fair and remunerative price (FRP) payments to farmers in a single instalment. Arrears have piled up to Rs 4,500 crore till December 31, 2018. Simultaneously in Pune, activists of farmer outfit Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) held an agitation at the office of the Maharashtra sugar commissioner to demand FRP in a single payment from millers.

Maharashtra sugar commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad told FE that after the agitation by members of the Sanghatana, he issued a circular citing provisions that if sugar producers fail to make payment for sugarcane purchased from growers within 14 days of the date of delivery, he shall pay an interest on the amount due at 15% per annum for such delay beyond 14 days.

Gaikwad told FE Commissionerate shall now issue the circular to millers and wait for 10 days other interventions to improve the cash flow of sugar mills. “ We expect exports to pick up with the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank Bank agreeing to give a short-term loan to millers to overcome the issue of short margins and thereby releasing sugar for exports.” “Millers have also sought a rise in the MFP of sugar from Rs 2,900 per quintal to Rs 3,100. Unless the cash flow increases, the issue of payments shall continue. The FRP payment component has improved and has come down to 31% to 41% last week. In absolute terms, the pending FRP dues are around Rs 4,500 crore,” he said.

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Nationalist Congress Party leader Hasan Mushrif who was among the delegation of millers pointed out although two months have passed since the commencement of crushing, several millers in Maharashtra have been unable to make FRP payments.

For the first time, even millers from Kolhapur and Sangli have been unable to pay up FRP bills, he said, explaining that millers have been seeking a grant of Rs 500 per tonne to be deposited into farmer accounts to enable FRP payments to farmers.

A gap of  Rs 400 per quintal has arisen because of the valuation made by banks and the actual sugar prices in the market, he said. According to Mushrif, the CM has agreed to approach and take up the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Solapur on Wednesday.

Yogesh Pande of the SSS who led the agitation at the commissioner’s office said the Sanghatana was unwilling to accept split payment of FRP to farmers.

For the first time, the commissioner’s office has clearly mentioned the interest component. “ We shall wait for the Commissionerate to issue notices to sugar mills and wait for payments till January 27, failing which a big agitation shall be held at Pune on January 28,” he declared. Cane dues had mounted up to Rs 5,000 crore till date and it was binding on millers to make FRP payments, he said.

Millers, in a representation to the CM, have stated the government should give a grant of Rs 500 per tonne to farmers on the lines of payments by the governments of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Haryana, and should allocate Rs 4,450 crore for this purpose.

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