The fresh cane crushing season has begun but Punjab farmers are yet to receive Rs 399 crore in dues pending from previous crushing seasons. As per the law, the payment should be released within 14 days of cane’s delivery to the mills.
The payments are due because most sugar mills of Punjab could not pay State Advised Price (SAP) – Rs 310 per quintal cane – and wanted to go with the Fair Remunerative Price (FRP) – Rs 275 per quinal – fixed by the Centre. The difference of Rs 35 between FRP and SAP was the major block.
The government had assured that it will pay Rs 25 out of the Rs 35 difference between SAP and FRP. The mills still have to pay the balance of Rs 10 per quintal difference in price. According to this agreement, government was to pay Rs 136 crore to all private mills at the rate of Rs 25 per quintal out of which till date government had paid Rs 112 crore, while Rs 4 crore would be released by Friday, but several private mills are not clearing the dues.
There are total 16 sugar mills in Punjab, including seven private and nine state-owned cooperative mills.
Outstanding payments towards the mills include Rs 217 crore of private mills and Rs 181.82 crore of cooperative mills with Rs 173 crore pending from last season and Rs 8.82 crore of previous years. Cooperative mills are the government’s responsibility.
In last season, total 775 lakh quintal cane was crushed including 555 lakh crore worth Rs 2400 crore by private mills and 220 lakh quintals worth Rs 682 crore by nine cooperative mills.
The capacity of seven private mills is around 32,000 TCD (tonnes crushed per day) against 15,766 TCD of state-owned cooperative mills. More than 70 per cent cane is crushed by the private millers.
Punjab Cane Commissioner Jaswant Singh told The Indian Express that they have been making all the efforts to make the payments of the farmers and over all 84 per cent payments have already made while remaining will be cleared within a month’s period.
Baldev Singh Sirsa, a farmer leader, said that when three private sugar mills can clear all the dues of farmers why other mills cannot do so. “For farmers there is no relief and they are forced to sit on dharnas to get their justified dues,” he said.
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