Cane growers threaten to padlock sugar millsThe Sugarcane Producers’ Association has warned of padlocking sugar mills if they don’t pay longstanding debts owed to sugarcane farmers in Rautahat, Bara and Sarlahi districts.
The Sugarcane Producers’ Association has warned of padlocking sugar mills if they don’t pay longstanding debts owed to sugarcane farmers in Rautahat, Bara and Sarlahi districts.
The association has submitted separate memorandums to the Industry Ministry, District Administration Office and sugar mills demanding that their dues be settled as soon as possible.
The association’s President Ashok Prasad Yadav met Rautahat Chief District Officer Narhari Baral and urged him to take necessary action to make the mills pay the money owed to farmers who have been exploited for a long time.
Following sustained pressure, the sugar mills had paid Rs900 million out of the debts owed to the farmers last year. But the mills still owe them Rs750 million, according to the association.
Nearly 18,000 sugarcane farmers in Bara, Rautahat and Sarlahi districts are having a hard time as they have taken huge loans from banks and financial institutions and invested the capital in their sugarcane farms.
“If the issue is not settled immediately, we will be forced to launch phase-wise protests,” said Yadav. “Farmers have not received their payment for a long time,” he said. “If things are not settled by Tuesday, we are sending a delegation to the Industry Ministry on Wednesday.” Yadav said that if the ministry fails to address their demand, they would padlock the mills.
Last year, the mills had agreed to settle the farmers’ dues following a meeting held under the aegis of former industry minister Somnath Pandey. But there has been no progress on the issue so far, said farmers.
A number of sugarcane growers had even staged a hunger strike before the Sarlahi District Administration Office after not getting payment from the mills last year.
Sugarcane farmers have been switching to other crops due to low market prices for their harvests, untimely payment by mills and high cost of production. They are also being exploited by factory owners.
Sugarcane prices have been dropping for the last three years while input costs have been swelling. 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.