Eastern Sugar Mill continues to delay farmers’ payment, againPanna Lal Tharu of Barju Rural Municipality sold the sugarcane produced in his field to a sugar mill more than two months ago but he has yet to get full payment from the sale. He had sold 700 kg of sugarcane produced in five biggas of land to Eastern Sugar Mill.
Dev Narayan Sah
Panna Lal Tharu of Barju Rural Municipality sold the sugarcane produced in his field to a sugar mill more than two months ago but he has yet to get full payment from the sale. He had sold 700 kg of sugarcane produced in five biggas of land to Eastern Sugar Mill.
He was supposed to receive Rs309,000 but the mill only paid him Rs100,000.
“The mill has already processed the sugarcane to sugar and sold it,” he said. “But, I am yet to recover the payment from the sale.”
Tharu was planning to open a grocery shop for his son with the proceeds but with the mill delaying payment, his plan is in limbo.
“I had earmarked the income from the sugarcane sale for household expenses like my children’s school fees but that is proving increasingly difficult,” said Tharu.
In the past, Tharu used to plant sugarcane on eight biggas of land but for last two years, he has reduced the plantation area to five biggas. Due to the mill’s reluctance to release the payment in time, Tharu is now considering quitting sugarcane farming.
He is not the only one facing payment issues with Eastern Sugar Mill.
Ballav Shrestha is another farmer who has yet to get full payment for 1.3 tonnes of sugarcane he had sold to the sugar mill.
Out of Rs 573,000 Shrestha was supposed to receive, the sugar mill has paid only Rs 200,000.
“We plant sugarcane on our land and it our only source of income. Without timely payment, how can we manage to provide for our families?” he questioned. “Who will listen to poor farmers?
Farmers like Tharu and Shrestha are just the tip of the iceberg.
Nearly 8500 sugarcane farmers from Morang and Sunsari sold their produce to the Eastern Sugar Mill. Most of them have not received their full payment.
And this is not the first time the infamous sugar mill has delayed payments to farmers. In the last fiscal year, the mill purchased 828 tonnes of sugarcane worth Rs420 million from farmers. However, till date it has released only Rs110 million to farmers.
Farmers complain that the mill owners are getting rich at the cost of poor farmers. Shailendra Raj Pandey, president of Morang-Sunsari Sugarcane Producers’ Association said majority of the farmers are in debt. While purchasing sugarcane, the mill owner had agreed to make full payment by the end of the fiscal year, according to Pandey.
“Farmers borrowed money from local money lenders, paying high interest rate to plant sugarcane,” he said. “But, the mill owner’s lackadaisical attitude has pushed the farmers into poverty.”
The farmers have taken up the issue to higher authorities including the Prime Minister, Agriculture Minister and Chief Secretary among other but such complaints have failed to any yield positive results.
They have even reported the mill owner to newly elected rural municipality chair Raghu Nandan Chaudhary.
In a bid to solve the problem, Chaudhary recently organised an interaction programme inviting farmers, mill owner and district administration officials of Sunsari and Morang and directed the mill owners to pay the farmers immediately.
Representative of Eastern Sugar Mill Dharma Chandra Singh said the mill has suffered losses after the sugar production went down due to diseased sugarcane they purchased four years ago. “We have to pay Rs 310 million to the farmers and we are holding talks with three banks to get loans to make payment to the farmers,” he said.
“We will make payment as soon as our loan is sanctioned by the banks.” Singh promised to solve the sugarcane farmers’ problem within a month.