The 2016-17 sugarcane crushing season has clocked four year’s high in terms of average fair and remunerative price (FRP) paid by sugar millers to growers. While the payment received by farmers might appear to be record high, decrease in yield and lesser crops have not resulted in any windfall gains to the farmers.
Starting under the pall of the last year’s drought Maharashtra had seen only 6,33 lakh hectare of farmland under sugarcane and the expected yield was around 429.55 lakh tonne. Based on payment done till now, the average price paid per tonne of cane by millers works out to be around Rs 2,382. Mills in Western Maharashtra have led in excess payment with many mills paying Rs 400-500 in excess of the FRP to attract growers. Even the cane-parched Marathwada mills have paid excess to attract growers. Till Tuesday, only 2 of the 150 mills, which had taken season, are operational in Maharashtra with the state recording production of 41.62 lakh tonne of sugar.
Compared to this year’s payment, millers had paid Rs 2,100, Rs 1,971 and Rs 1,942 as average FRP per tonne for the seasons of 2015-16, 2014-15 and 2013-14 respectively. The average payments in these years was in tandem with acreage and production figures of those years. Seasons of the 2014-15 and 15-16 has seen mills failing to pay growers and running into arrears. For both the seasons, the sugar commissioner’s office had to order for auction of sugar stock of errant millers to recover dues. This season as against the total dues of Rs 7,970.68 crore, mills have totalled payment to the tune of Rs 8,323.84 crore- but failure of some of the mills to complete payment has led to arrears of Rs 181.54 crore.
Figures might point to bumper payment to growers but farmers say their profitability has been hit this year. Prahlad Ingole, Nanded district president of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana said growers had to face double trouble to save their crop. Ingole said farmers had to spend excess to arrange for water and in many cases the mills have tampered with the FRP payment system to show lower values before paying excess.