Stingy mills put cane farmers at wit’s endFarmer Giriraj Kharel of Atrauli is regretting his decision to switch to sugarcane farming from tomatoes as the price of the first has plunged while that of the second has soared.
Farmer Giriraj Kharel of Atrauli is regretting his decision to switch to sugarcane farming from tomatoes as the price of the first has plunged while that of the second has soared.
Sugarcane prices have been dropping for the last three years while input costs have been swelling. About 18,000 families in Sarlahi are involved in sugarcane farming. There is hardly any village development committee (VDC) or municipality in the district where the crop is not grown.
One good thing that has happened in the lives of sugarcane farmers is that prices are fixed on time. Prices went down by Rs13 to Rs448 per quintal this year. Due to the fall in prices in recent years, people have started giving up growing sugarcane.
Farmers have been growing paddy, wheat and corn in places where there is irrigation facility. Vegetable farming is on the rise in areas where there is no irrigation. “Although sugarcane is sweet, there is no sweetness in growing it,” said another farmer Kamal Mainali from Ghurkauli.
Farmers have not been paid on time for the last few years and prices have gone down, which has led many of them to switch to other crops.
“Sugar mill owners have started making timely payment from this year as they fear that farmers will give up growing sugarcane altogether,” said Mainali. He expressed disappointment that they had to wait for two years to receive payment from the mills.
Akshya Lal Raut, a farmer from Dhangadha, has slashed his sugarcane acreage by 4 bighas. Expressing sadness at not being paid by the sugar mills, Raut said that he had to sell his land to repay bank loans. “I had to pay Rs52,000 in interest alone,” complained.
The cultivation of sugarcane had spread in the district after two sugar mills, namely Indu Shankar and Annapurna, were established. According to him, farmers had to resort to blocking the shipment of sugar from the mill to get payment.
“We didn’t allow the tractor carrying sugar to move, and only then did the factory pay us,” he said. “We took 700 sacks of sugar under our control and the mill paid five to six farmers.”
Another farmer Laxman Ray staged a hunger strike before the District Administration Office after not getting payment from the mill. He is also planting less sugarcane.
Farmers said that the cultivation of sugarcane had decreased massively although the exact statistics have not been received for this year. President of the Federation of Sugarcane Producers Kapil Muni Mainali said that farmers were giving up growing sugarcane as they had to face many hassles. “They were being exploited by various sectors,” he said.