NCP president Sharad Pawar has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking an increase in minimum support price (MSP) for sugar ranging from Rs 3,450 to Rs 3,750 with grade-wise increment and pitched for treating sugar mills’ distilleries as strategic business units (SBUs). In a tweet, he also criticised the Aatmanirbhar Bharat package announced by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday.
In his letter to Modi, sent on Thursday, Pawar sought the Centre’s “urgent intervention” to bail the industry out from the crisis now aggravated by the lockdown.
In April, Pawar has written thrice to the PM highlighting problems faced by the migrants and unorganised workers’ problems and agriculture sector, and seeking an economic package for them.
The former Union agriculture minister, who earlier held a meeting the Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation, also enclosed recommendations of the federation while raising the concerns related to the sector.
In the letter, Pawar called for making provision of funds for clearing export incentives and buffer stock expenses pending since 2018-19 and 2019-20. He also urged the Centre to increase the MSP of sugar ranging from Rs 3,450 to Rs 3,750 with grade-wise increment and consider provision of one-time grant of Rs 650 per tonne on average cane crushed during the last two years.
Among other measures suggested included conversion of outstanding working capital into short-term loan and rescheduling all term loans for 10 years with a moratorium of two years on the lines of Mitra Committee recommendations. The NCP chief also said the government should treat sugar mills distilleries as SBUs and on a standalone basis, banks should finance ethanol projects sanctioned under the interest subvention scheme announced by the Centre in 2018.
The cash crop is cultivated by more than 30 lakh farmers whose livelihood depends on the procurement and payments from sugar mills. According to state cooperative department data, 528.34 lakh tonnes of cane has been crushed till the first week of April. At least 146 mills participated in crushing, including 79 cooperative mills and 67 private ones.
On Friday, Pawar also took to Twitter to criticise the agricultural package announced by the Centre. “Disappointed with the Atmanirbhar agricultural package announced today. The package should have been announced keeping in mind the losses incurred due to lockdown. No word on restructuring of agri loans, moratorium on agri loans and reduction in interest rates for farmers,” he tweeted.
Pointing out that there was no clarity in the financial aid for the kharif season, he said, “There is no clarity on financial aid for the ensuing kharif season and also no relief for losses incurred by horticultural crop growers. This announcement appears like a Five Year Plan and not a relief package as publicised.”
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