The Centre’s decision to modify the order on sugarcane prices may not have a bearing on Maharashtra which produces nearly 33 per cent of India’s sugar.
Local sugar factory owners claim that farmers from Maharashtra already get a high price for sugarcane.
“Cooperatives in Maharashtra generally get Rs 700-800 more then what farmers in north India get for every tonne of sugar cane. This improved price means that the scope of an agitation for higher sugar prices is less,” said Prakash Naiknavre, managing director, Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories Association Managing Director.
The central government fixes a Statutory Minimum Price (SMP) of Rs 1,300 per tonne of sugarcane to ensure sugar factory owners do not exploit farmers. In Maharashtra, which has 150 sugar factories, farmers get Rs 2,100 to Rs 2,200 per tonne of sugarcane and the sum is expected to reach Rs 2,500.
“This modification in the sugar price order would not have much effect in Maharashtra as cooperative factories have been giving a much higher price than the SMP for the past several years,” said senior Congress leader Kanhaiyalal Gidwani.
Many believe the difference is because of the way sugar industries in Maharashtra function. All the profit made by sugar factories in Maharashtra is distributed among the farmers because the factories are run as cooperatives. This is not the case in north India where private parties own sugar mills.
“SMP has always an issue of dispute in north India, which is a never case in Maharashtra,” sugar baron and senior Congress leader Shankarrao Kolhe said.
Maharashtra is expected to produce 46 lakh tonne of sugar in the year 2008-09 [For the sugar industry, year starts in October and ends in September] as against 91 lakh tonne last year, a record in the state’s history. Next year, sugar production is expected to be around 48 lakh tonne.