Sugar mills in Maharashtra, till April 2021, owe farmers a total due to the tune of Rs 1,693 crore. The state has slapped revenue recovery certificate (RRC) to 19 mills that failed to make even part payments to farmers.
Sources in the ministry of cooperation and marketing said, “Despite the ongoing pandemic and surplus production for past three years leading to decline in sugar demand and prices, Maharashtra has fared well.”
Till April 2021, 190 sugar mills crushed 997.17 lakh metric tonne of sugarcane. These mills, as per the agreement with sugarcane growers, had to pay fair and remunerative price (FRP) of Rs 2,22,93.34 crore. Till date, the net amount paid to the farmers is Rs 2,05,99.73 crore, which means the unpaid dues or arrears account for Rs 1,693.91 crore.
Despite the pandemic and prolonged lockdown, sugarcane cultivation and crushing, essentially confined to Western Maharashtra and parts of Marathawada, have increased in Maharashtra.
The total sugarcane crushed till April this year was 997.17 lakh metric tonne, higher than 545.83 lakh metric tonne for the same period last year. This year saw 190 mills undertaking cane-crushing compared to 144 last year.
However, mills that are yet to make complete payment to farmers have increased to 88 from last year’s 58. But the 19 mills that were served the RRC notices by the Maharashtra State Sugar Commissioner defaulted payment hundred percent.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) president Raju Shetti, who raised the matter with the state, said, “The mills cannot default on payment to farmers. As per the Sugar Control (1966) order, it is mandatory for the mills to pay fair and remunerative price to farmers within 14 days.” The SSS urged the mills to immediately clear the dues or face protest.
FRP is the minimum support price determined on the cost of production and sugar recovery, which mills have to pay farmers to procure sugarcane for crushing and sugar production. The FRP is determined by the Centre. The FRP for 2021 was Rs 282 per quintal.
A senior officer in the cooperative department said, “Of total 190 mills, which did cane-crushing, only 88 did 100 percent FRP payment to farmers.” Thirty-nine mills paid between 80 and 99 percent, 30 mills paid 60 to 79 percent and 19 made zero payment to farmers.
With the India Meteorological Department predicting a good monsoon this year, farmers are likely to return to cane cultivation in larger numbers. The area under cane cultivation in the state averages to 10 lakh hectares and involves over 35 to 40 lakh farmers.