The decision of the owners of AB Sugars Limited, Dasuya and Indian Sucrose Limited, Mukerian to suspend the crushing for the upcoming cane season has come as a big jolt to farmers who have already cultivated the crop in thousands of acres of land.
Managements of both the sugar mills of the district have publically informed the farmers by issuing closure notices in newspapers. Quoting high minimum support price (MSP) of cane as fixed by the government as the reason, they have expressed their inability to keep the mills running.
On Monday, Ganna Sangharash Committee, Mukrian held a meeting in the tehsil complex and decided to start an agitation if the government did not compel the mill owners to retract their decision. They alleged that the mill management was not even making outstanding payments worth 35 crore. "The mills cannot close its operation abruptly as it will push us in a deep financial crisis," they said.
Meanwhile, the mill owners are not demanding a cut in MSP, but a bailout package for themselves. "If the state government wants to give benefit to the farmers beyond the one fixed by the fair and remunerative price (FRP) of the Central government, it should not pass on the burden to the mills," they argue.
"Our manufacturing price comes to around Rs 3,600 per quintal whereas sugar prices have come down to nearly Rs 2,500 per quintal. It is very difficult to fill this gap, hence we have been demanding financial assistance from the government," said AB Sugars senior manager Des Raj Thakur.
"Last year, we suffered losses to the tune of Rs 60-65 crore. We are no more in a position to pay the heavy cane prices. The government extended financial help in the form of Rs 115 per quintal subsidy to co-operative sugar mills during the last sugar season. In a similar way it should come to the rescue of crisis ridden private mills also," he added.
Sugarcane farmers, on other hand, have urged the government to ensure that the mills lift their produce and pay outstanding dues. "Farmers are caught in a debt trap. If their crop is not lifted, they will be driven to commit suicides," Ganna Sangharsh Committee president Seesam Singh Sandhu said.
"Earlier when the sugar mill management did not start the cane survey, farmers had turned apprehensive and approached the government authorities, who ensured them that their interests will not be harmed. Now the management has officially announced to close down its operation. We appeal to the government to intervene in the matter or we will be compelled to take harsh steps," he warned.
Quote: Last year, we suffered losses to the tune of Rs 60-65 crore. We are no more in a position to pay the heavy cane prices. The government extended financial help in the form of Rs 115 per quintal subsidy to co-operative sugar mills during the last sugar season. In a similar way it should come to the rescue of crisis ridden private mills also.