WITH sugar mills getting ready to start the 2017-18 crushing season, all eyes are on how the season will fare up both in terms of sugar prices and payment made to cane growers. Farmer organisations have already upped the ante for a better payment this year, which millers say might be possible only if sugar realisations are in the present range of Rs 35 per kilo.
The 2016-17 season was unique as paucity of cane had set off a price war among millers to attract cane. Also, last year was the first time when Maharashtra implemented the revenue sharing formula as per the recommendations of the C Rangarajan committee. The committee had recommended a revenue sharing formula between growers and the millers, which would see 70 per cent of the realisations going towards the growers while the rest would be used by mills as their running cost. After the meeting of the cane control board, mills in Kolhapur have emerged as the highest payers. A few mills with high recovery have recorded payment to the tune of Rs 3,250 per tonne of the cane crushed. The lowest payments as per formula were recorded among mills in Marathwada and was in the range of Rs 1600-1700 per tonne. Of the 150 mills, which had taken season payment amount for 98 mills, had come more than the fair and remunerative price (FRP) while payment figures for 22 mills had come below the FRP. In such cases, mills were instructed to pay the FRP.
Calculations for five mills had come to an astronomical figure, which the cane control board had sent back to the commissionerate for further investigations. These mills had seen a very short crushing season but had carried forward stock of sugar which they had sold at high premium. The total cane payment due to farmers last year was around Rs 10,000 crore, of which only Rs 60 lakh remains unpaid. Just three mills are yet to clear their dues this year in Maharashtra.
As November 1, the D-day for starting of the crushing season, comes close, growers have started gearing up for a repeat performance of last year’s payment trends.