Pressing for a price of Rs 270 per quintal of sugarcane, Swambhimani Shetkari Sanghatna (SSS) leader Raju Shetti said Saturday that they would not stop any one from taking their crop to the factories, a marked departure from his previous stand of not allowing sugarcane to reach the factories till they agreed to his price demand.
Shetti was addressing the 13th Sugarcane Conclave at Jaisinghpur in Kolhapur.
“We have based our calculation on the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) announced earlier by the central government. By that, for recovery of 9.5 per cent, the FRP is Rs 220 per quintal. For regions of Sangli and Kolhapur, we are asking for price of Rs 270 per quintal as these regions have recovery of 10 and 11 per cent respectively,” he said. The cooperative sugar factories in the state are yet to commence operations, waiting to see what price Shetti asks for.
With the sugar prices going down, factories have been asking for special dispensation from both the central and state governments.
Last year, the first instalment price for high recovery regions was fixed at Rs 265 per quintal. Sources close to Shetti said that as the season for crushing of sugarcane has already started, he did not want to ask for a higher price for the fear of losing ground.
The present price formula, a source with the sugar industry in Kolhapur said, would result in the sugar factories starting crushing by paying the FRP as first instalment and deciding the second and final price based on market dynamics.
Shetti’s party had contested the state Assembly elections along with the BJP but failed to win any seats.
With the recent electoral defeat fresh in mind, this sugarcane conclave was supposed to be a show of strength for the farmers’ leader. “We are in the government, but we will continue to struggle with them for getting justice to the farmers,” he said.
Shetti said he had already spoken to the chief minister on a string of issues and indicated he would give time till November 25 to the government to address them, failing which he would agitate before the sugar commissioner’s office in Pune.
Of the four demands Shetti had talked about, reduction of the mandatory aerial distance of 15 kms between two factories was one. He had also called for a cost audit of sugar factories as well as asked for 12 hours of uninterrupted electricity supply for farmers.
Another demand which Shetti made was the formation of a welfare board for the sugarcane cutters.
“We have spoken to sugarcane cutters and they said as their wage agreement had lapsed, they had boycotted the season. However, they have agreed to commence operations now,” he said.
Another demand was that the sugarcane board, which will be set up as per the directives of the Rangarajan Committee’s recommendations, should have the power to fine and jail both chairman and directors of factories who fail to pay the FRP. “If you had elected at least one MLA from our party, he would have moved the above amendment. But as this has not happened, I would ask the state government to do the necessary changes,” he said.
Shetti said he would be meeting the prime minister soon to discuss various issues related to the sugar industry.