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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Fate of 10 lakh tonne of unharvested canes in limbo

Concerned over their safety, labourers have started leaving their places of work while in some mills in western Maharashtra had gone on a strike

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune | Published: April 2, 2020 10:23:21 pm
Maharashtra: 15 mills start crushing operations, but sugar bowl waits for higher cane price A few mills are taking the help of mechanised harvesters to finish the last bit of harvesting before the season comes to a close. (File)

Sugar mills in Maharashtra have expressed concerns over the fate of 10 lakh tonne of canes still standing on the fields. As most cane harvesters have stopped work or left for their homes in Beed and other districts of Marathwada, many mills have asked farmers to harvest and transport cane on their own.

The nationwide lockdown amid the spread of COVID-19 has cast a shadow on the 2019-20 sugarcane crushing season. Concerned over their safety, labourers have started leaving their places of work while in some mills in western Maharashtra had gone on a strike. Sugar Commissioner Saurabh Rao had issued instructions to mills to ensure workers did not leave the district and are quarantined in their area.

With nearly 10 lakh tonne of cane remaining on the fields, sugar mills are now concerned about their harvest. Some mills, like Kranti Agrani GD Bapu Lad Cooperative Sugar Mill in Sangli district, have issued advertisements urging farmers to harvest and transport cane on their own. In some other cases, mills are taking the help of mechanised harvesters to finish the last bit of harvesting before the season comes to a close.

According to industry insiders, in case canes remain on field and mills closed, the state government is expected to pay compensation for the same. Estimates have shown that the amount could be anything between Rs. 150-200 crore.

Earlier this week, sugar commissioner had written to Kolhapur district collector Daulat Desai to file a complain against the managing director of the Sharad Cooperative Sugar Mill in Hatkanagle taluka, who had apparently signed a letter authorising labourers to return to their native villages despite the lockdown. The mill is managed by Minister of State for Health Rajendra Patil Yedravkar.

Reports have come in of labourers being roughened up at various places with the police trying to prevent their inter-district migrations.

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