Sugar mill agrees to make part payment to farmersEastern Sugar Mill of Biratnagar has agreed to pay 25 percent of the total money owed to sugarcane farmers of Sunsari and Morang immediately and the rest later after they launched a strong protest.
Bed Raj Poudel
Eastern Sugar Mill of Biratnagar has agreed to pay 25 percent of the total money owed to sugarcane farmers of Sunsari and Morang immediately and the rest later after they launched a strong protest.
Angry cane growers had held a sit-in at the gate of the mill demanding payment.
“If the mill owners honestly make this payment, it will help us to pay for our needs during the upcoming Dashain festival,” said Shiva Lal Chaudhary, president of the Koshi Sugar Producers Association. “But we are doubtful that they will honour the agreement.”
After the sugar mill clears 25 percent of its debts to farmers, it will still owe them Rs260 million. The mill has already processed the sugarcane into sugar and sold it, but the farmers are yet to receive payment for their crops.
Parmeshor Mehata of Gadhi, Itahari still remembers how the manager of the sugar mill had visited his home and encouraged him to plant sugarcane.
“The manager had promised to make payment instantly. I had planted wheat in my field, but I destroyed my wheat crop and planted sugarcane without a second thought,” said Mehata.
“It has been eight months, but I am yet to receive full payment from the sale of my harvest.” Mehata had sold 54.5 tonnes of sugarcane worth Rs289,000 to Eastern Sugar Mill. Now he feels betrayed by the mill and plans to give up sugarcane farming.
Ashok Mehata, another farmer of Gadhi, Itahari criticised the mill management accusing it of pushing him into poverty. “We planted sugarcane by borrowing money from local cooperatives at a high interest rate,” said Ashok Mehata.
“Now, the mill is taking months to make payment without interest while we are still servicing our loans.” Ashok had sold 40 tonnes of sugarcane worth Rs212,000 to the mill and is yet to receive the money.
A majority of sugarcane farmers in Morang and Sunsari are currently in debt. They have taken up the issue with higher authorities including the prime minister, agriculture minister and chief secretary, among others, but their complaints have failed to yield any positive results.
They have even filed a report against the mill owner with newly elected rural municipality chair Raghu Nandan Chaudhary.
Subsequently, Chaudhary recently organised an interaction programme with farmers, mill owners and district administration officials of Sunsari and Morang and directed the mill owners to pay the farmers immediately.
Tara Chand Chaudhary, chief of the administration at the mill, said they owe Rs300 million to the farmers and would soon start making payment.