In a major blow to sugar mills, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday said sugar cooperatives should not expect financial help from the state or the Centre.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has been demanding assistance from the government for the past six months, citing the problems faced by the sugar cooperatives. Speaking at a function organised by the Vasantdada Sugar Institute (VSI), in the presence of NCP heavyweights Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil and Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, Fadnavis said sugar mills must be run professionally and efficiently, and should look for other sources of income in the wake of the changing market scenario.
While the state wants the sugar cooperatives to pay fair and remunerative price (FRP) to farmers, sugar mill owners claim it is unfair as there is a huge gap – Rs700 a tonne -- between the manufacturing cost and the market price. The government has, so far, initiated legal action against 20 mills for failing to comply with its order on FRP.
Fadnavis said the sugar industry faces three major problems every year — cane price, transport of cane and payment to mill workers. “We must draw a roadmap for sugar mills for the next few years,” Fadnavis said, adding the cane farmers should adopt drip irrigation to save water.
The CM said the government has called for a meeting with the Maharashtra State Cooperative Sugar Factories’ Association next week to discuss their problems.
Fadnavis’ stand assumes significance as the budget session of the Assembly is set to begin next week. While on one hand there is speculation over the growing intimacy between the NCP and BJP, the rift between the ruling alliance — BJP and Sena — seems to be widening.
Pawar had raised the issue with PM Narendra Modi during the latter’s Baramati visit last month. Modi had then promised a policy that would take care of all stakeholders.