Mills yet to settle dues running into several crores of rupees
This Pongal is a bitter season for sugarcane cultivators in the region what with agony piling up not only due to the failure of mills to settle their dues running into several crores of rupees, but also because the State Administered Price (SAP) has not yet been announced. Leave alone fixing SAP, farmers are thoroughly disappointed with the government over its silence over private mills refusing to pay even last year’s recommended price. There is no question of celebrating Pongal as no reprieve is in sight, farmers say.
Already in severe financial crises, cultivators lament that they will be doomed if there is no course correction in the Central and State policies. While the Central Government could intervene and safeguard sugar industry from collapse by combining an increase in duty on imports with enhancing composition of ethanol in petrol to 25 per cent from existing five per cent, the State government must not fail to consult farmers before arriving at the procurement price on a periodic basis, according to representatives of farmers’ associations.
There was no reason for private mills to disregard SAP when cooperative and public sector mills were abiding by the recommendation, Subi Thalapathi, representative of Thadapalli-Arakankottai Ayacut Farmers’ Association said. At present, none of the private mills paid the farmers beyond Rs. 2,400 per tonne, against the recommended rate of Rs. 2,600, he said.
Farmers were in a critical situation and would be doomed if the Central Government continues to control price of sugar without considering ground realities, Mr. Thalapathi said. Controlling price of sugar on the premise that it was an essential commodity was flawed since the main consumers were not households, but makers of beverages and confectioners, farmers wonder.
The government has to accept the fact that increasing the price of sugar by a few rupees will not affect consumers, since, at the level of households the requirement is only a few kilograms on a monthly basis. Only then can the mills clear the accumulating stocks of sugar and clear the dues to farmers, he explained.