Strict action by the state sugar commissioner and agitations by farmers has prompted a number of sugar mills to pay the entire amount due to cane farmers at one go, instead of doing so in installments. Till Tuesday, 17 mills in the state have cleared 100 per cent of their dues to cane farmers, while other mills in the state are in the process of doing so.
Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said by January, 11 mills had paid 100 per cent of the fair and remunerative price (FRP), and the number has since risen to 17.
Some sugar mills in Sangli and Kolhapur have also decided to clear their pay FRP at one go. A private miller from Kolhapur confirmed this development and said two mills from Sangli have already paid the entire FRP. In some cases, farmers have also decided to accept the ‘sugar for cash’ scheme.
This season, many mills had not followed the usual custom of paying the FRP within 14 days of cane delivery as the first installment to growers, and paid only 80 per cent of it. They had promised to pay the remaining amount once the season ends.
By the end of January, mills in Maharashtra owed dues of over Rs 4,800 crore to cane farmers.
Angered by the partial payment of FRP, farmers in various parts of the state took to the streets and torched offices of mills, especially in the sugar-growing districts of Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur.
Led by MP Raju Shetti, farmers’ outfit Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana had also held a sit-in protest outside the office of Gaikwad in Pune. The sugar commissioner had taken action against 49 mills that had failed to pay the FRP and issued orders for confiscation of their sugar stock. Facing the possibility of action by the sugar commissioner, state mills had also come up with a ‘sugar for cash’ policy, under which they offered to give sugar to farmers in lieu of the remaining portion of the FRP.
However, most mills have now started paying FRP in one go. On Wednesday, Sangthana members staged a protest at Gaikwad’s office to demand action against mills which have still not cleared their dues. Gaikwad has decided to issue order of attachment of sugar stock against nine mills in Solapur, Pune and Ahmednagar districts, which have the highest dues.