Millers in the sugar belt of Sangli Kolhapur have decided to adopt a wait and watch policy even as sugarcane farmers in the region are demanding higher payments. A meeting of millers has been arranged in Kolhapur on Tuesday. But speaking on the condition of anonymity, the millers expressed their inability to accede to the farmers’ demands.
On Saturday, farmer leader and Hatkhanagale MP Raju Shetti had demanded a payment of Rs 200 over the fair and remunerative price (FRP) of Rs 2,750 linked to the base recovery rate of 9.5 per cent. This year, the central government had increased the base recovery rate to 10 per cent and the FRP was declared to be Rs 2,750.
Shetti had protested against the increase in the recovery rate and already challenged it in court. As per Shetti’s demands, mills in Kolhapur region, whose average recovery rate comes to around 12.5 per cent, have to pay Rs 3,817 per tonne as their first installment payment without deduction of harvesting and transportation (HnT) costs. The net payment to farmers after deducting an average HnT cost of Rs 600 per tonne comes to Rs 3,217 per tonne.
“At present, the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank (MSC) bank has valued sugar at Rs 3,100 per quintal. After pledging the sugar stock, the bank lends us Rs 1,885 for payment of FRP. We will not be able to raise money to bridge the extra amount and pay as per their demands,” pointed out a miller, on the condition of anonymity. Given the strong base Shetti has in and around Kolhapur, mills fear a disruption in supply of cane by its members.
Sporadic incidents have been reported from various parts of Western Maharashtra as Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana members forcefully stopped the transport of cane and gave a chase to harvesters in the region. NCP MLA Hasan Mushrif, whose family runs the Sar Senapati Santaji Ghorpade Sugar Factory Limited in Kagal taluka of Kolhapur, said a meeting of millers has been organised on Tuesday.
Most mills said they are waiting till Diwali to start their operations as getting harvesting labourers will be difficult just at the start of the festive season. Also, the apprehension of disruption by Sanghatana members has put brakes on mills plans for an early start in this region. The start of the season has been tepid with just 18 mills starting their operations. Officials of the sugar commissionerate stated that four lakh tonnes of cane have been crushed till date.
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