LUCKNOW: The tussle between sugarcane farmers and sugar mill owners over the purchase price of cane for the 2011-12 crushing season starting from November may lead to an increase in the sugar price by 15-20% in the coming days.

With only a month left for the crushing season to begin, the farmers are demanding Rs 300-350 per quintal state advisory price (SAP) for sugarcane because input cost has increased by 100% in the last one year due to rise in inflation.


However, the private mill owners are of the view that they cannot pay more than Rs 205-210 per quintal for sugarcane because of low market price of sugar at present - Rs 270-300 per quintal. The state government cannot afford to antagonise 40 lakh sugarcane farmers with assembly elections just six months away.

Both farmers and mill owners made their stand clear before the state government at a meeting called to fix SAP. UP is the second largest cane producing state in India.

Ideally, SAP should be announced on October 1 to enable farmers dispose their produce in November and plan sowing of winter crops in December. However, the matter has been delayed. There are 125 odd sugar mills in the state. The sugarcane production in the season 2010-11 was 643 lakh tonnes and sugar - 58.79 lakh tonnes. This year, 9% increase in production is expected.

The SAP last year was Rs 210 per quintal. In one year, farmers said, the cost of labour has increased by 50% and prices of diesel, fertilisers, insecticides and other inputs are up by 16-25%. The living cost has also gone up, hence the price should be increased accordingly. Shyam Lal Gupta, India Sugar Mills Association, explained how sugar industry is going through a bad phase in India because of low sugar prices. One quintal of cane yields around 10 kg sugar. Mill owners will pass on the extra burden to consumers if SAP is fixed above Rs 300.

Cane commissioner Kamran Rizvi was of the view that farmers should get high prices. He even told mill owners in a terse tone that in Punjab, farmers are being paid over Rs 230 per quintal. Farmer leader Shish Pal Singh from Hapur and Pritam Singh from Saharanpur expressed concern over confronting attitude of the private sugar mills and the problem of under-weighing. After taking feedback from farmers and sugar mills, the cane commissioner will now inform the chief secretary who will hold the final meeting soon to announce the SAP.

Sudhir Panwar, president, Kisan Jagriti Manch, said the Commission of Agriculture Cost and Prices and Union government have recommended a 17% hike in the fair and remunerative price (FRP) for the next season in view of increase in the input cost. If a similar formula is applied in UP, he said, the SAP should not be less than Rs 250 per quintal. "Such a price would be feasible for all the stake holders - farmers, sugar mills, consumers and the government," he said while emphasising that the crushing should start by November 1 by all means.

source: TOI

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