The special meeting called by Cooperatives Minister Chandrakant Patil Thursday to discuss the payment of Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) for the present crushing season ended without any tangible solution.
While sugar mill owners expressed their inability to pay the FRP in one go, representatives of the cane growers rejected the mill owners’ offer to pay the FRP in three installments. Patil said he would take a representative group of farmers and mill owners to the chief minister within the next eight days to find a solution.
The 2014-15 crushing season had seen mills failing to pay FRP to the farmers and running into cane arrears. The cane arrears stood at Rs 1,000 crores by the end of October. Addressing the media, Patil said 100 mills had paid 100 per cent FRP, 50 mills had cleared 75 per cent of their dues while five mills had cleared less than 50 per cent of their dues.
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“The Sugar Commissionerate has taken all legal measures against the five mills, including auctioning their sugar stock to pay the farmers. We hope that the other mills who have defaulted in payment last season will also clear off their dues soon,” he said.
Patil said the state government had made it mandatory for mills to clear their dues within a month of the start of crushing, failing which the operations could be stopped. As of Thursday, 122 mills have started crushing in the state.
During the meeting, Patil said the matter of payment of FRP was discussed threadbare between the mill owners and the farmer representatives. “This year, the price of sugar has risen and it is hoped that it would rise more given the reduction in sugar production,” he said. This year, the state will see an estimated production of 85 lakh metric tonnes of sugar as against the 105 lakh metric tonne produced last year.
“Both the state and the Central government have given various reliefs to the sugar sector, which will help the mills in payment of FRP,” said Patil. The current crushing season, Patil said, would be shorter by a month due to the extreme water scarcity in the state.
Meanwhile, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader and MP Raju Shetti indicated that he along with other farmers’ groups would be ready to hit the streets in case the FRP was not paid at one go. “We have asked the government to stand as a guarantor in case of short fall in payment for the mill,” he said. Shetti, who is part of the ruling dispensation, accused the mill owners of trying to play politics at the expense of farmers. “We will not allow any such move to happen and if the mills do not change their stance within the next seven days, we will hit the streets,” he said.