Sugar mills, especially in the drought-prone Marathwada region, have started taking precautions to escape litigations in case they fail to pay growers the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) on time.
The mills are tweaking their cane plantation certificates — that farmers need to sign — asking farmers to accept the FRP payment in installments.
The Sugarcane Control Order of 1966 mandates payment of FRP within 14 days of sale of cane, failing which the mills are expected to pay interest at the rate of 15 per cent per annum to the farmers.
However, till date such payment is yet to happen. Nanded district president of the farmer’s union Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Prahlad Ingole, had moved the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court to ask for calculation and payment of such interest.
The high court had asked the then sugar commissioner to hear the cases and decide. While mills were not asked to pay the interest, the long-pending FRP dues were cleared.
With multiple litigations still going on, mills have started playing safe and getting farmers sign their consent for payment of FRP in installments.
Some of the mill owners said they had made the necessary changes in their cane plantation certificates to absolve them from any liabilities later on.
“Due to volatility in the sugar sector, payment of FRP at one go has become almost impossible. This is being done to save us later,” said a miller from Latur. Cane plantation certificates are signed by farmers, who agree to sell their cane to mills at the start of the season.
Ingole, had complained about this to the chief minister, cooperation minister as well as the chief secretary of the state.
“This is a wrong practice and has to be stopped,” he said. The farmer leader, who is fighting a similar case in the high court, had claimed that his requests for police security in view of this case had been overlooked by the police.
Meanwhile, even as the present crushing season completes more than a month, the FRP payment is yet to pick up.
As of November 30, of the Rs 2497.41 crore payable as FRP, only Rs 360.36 crore has been paid by the mills.
Swabhimani leader, Raju Shetti, said cane payment was delayed in the first month of the season.
“However, if payment is not done within the next week or so, we will recourse to action,” he said.