Out of 16 mills whose crushing licenses were suspended by Sugar Commisisoner Vipin Sharma for non-clearance of cane dues for 2015-16, nine have managed to pay their arrears. While two mills had managed to get a stay order from the Bombay High Court, the others are in various stages of clearing their dues and getting their licences reinstated.
Earlier this month, Sharma had temporarily suspended the licences of 16 mills as they had failed to clear their dues of the last crushing season. Mills managed by political bigwigs like leader of the opposition Radhakrushna Vikhe Patil and former revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat were there in the list. The total pending dues of the mills were more than Rs 250 crore. Suspension of crushing licences translates into heavy monetary fines on the mills.
On Thursday, Sharma was supposed to take a decision about the ongoing case of payment of interest on cane dues. However, with some mills moving for legal recourse, no orders were passed. Prahlad Ingole, Nanded district head of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, had moved the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court seeking payment of interest on cane dues from the mills for the crushing season of 2014-15.
The high court had asked Sharma to hear the case and take a decision. Sharma, in turn, had asked the Regional Joint Director of Nanded to calculate the interest which was not to take the period when the central government announced the special package.
Till January 15, mills had cleared Fair and Remunerative Payment (FRP) worth Rs 4,275 crore. As per calculations made by officials of the sugar commissionerate, mills were supposed to pay FRP worth Rs 7,468 crore, and as per the 80:20 formula of payment decided upon earlier, they were supposed to pay Rs 5,655 crore to cane growers.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, the state saw 179 mills crushing cane-an increase from last year’s 175 mills which were in operation on the same date. With 100 cooperatives and 79 private mills in operation, new mills have started crushing in Nashik and Ahmednagar.
The starting of new mills in January has surprised both officials of the sugar commissionerate and office-bearers of the Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Federation. Towards the beginning of the present crushing season, millers had predicted a reduction in the number of mills which would start operations. Also a shorter crushing season has been predicted for the current year.
Sanjiv Babar, managing director of the Federation, said that mills which have started crushing late will see a very short crushing season. “They will find it difficult to source cane,” he said.
As of Thursday, 480.72 lakh metric tonnes of cane was crushed and 517.66 lakh quintals of sugar produced. Last year on the same date, the state had seen crushing of 475.73 lakh metric tonnes of cane and production of 513.77 lakh quintals of sugar. A total of 10 mills have stopped operations for the season as of Thursday.