Sugarcane farmers protest demanding Rs80 millionSugarcane famers of Nawalparasi district have staged a sit-in at the entrance of Indira Sugar Mill demanding payment for their crop. The protest was held after the mill failed to release the payment of around Rs80 million to sugarcane farmers, who had supplied the crop three months ago.
Sugarcane famers of Nawalparasi district have staged a sit-in at the entrance of Indira Sugar Mill demanding payment for their crop. The protest was held after the mill failed to release the payment of around Rs80 million to sugarcane farmers, who had supplied the crop three months ago.
The protest launched by farmers has prevented the mill from sending sugar to the market. The farmers have said they would end the demonstration only if they receive full payment for the crop they supplied. They have also threatened to take control of the sugar stored in the mill and padlock the factory if the payment is not released immediately.
As the government is yet to fix the price of the cane for this season, the farmers had sold their crops to the mill at previous year’s price hoping to get paid at an earlier date.
“The intention of the mill owner is not good,” said Lakhhu Yadav, a sugarcane farmer of the district. “The mill owner a few days ago had agreed to make full payment. But we are now being harassed for demanding our own money.”
Indira Sugar Mill has already crushed 50,000 tonnes of sugarcane in this season and has sold 60 percent of the sugar produced from the crop.
“Despite this, mill owners have shown very little interest to settle due payment,” said Uma Shanker Yadav, a local farmer. “The mill has to pay more than Rs80 million to farmers.”
While some farmers are protesting to get their payment, others are waiting for the government to fix the price of the crop for this fiscal year, raising the spectre of the crops drying in the field. In the past, most of the sugarcane farmers used to harvest their crops by this time, sell them to sugar mills and receive payment.
But this year, while some are yet to get payment for their crops, others are worried that further delay in harvesting may cause sugarcane to dry in the fields.
Sugarcane farming is the major source of income for around 80 percent of farmers in the district. These poor farmers, who are facing difficulties in meeting their daily needs, are now selling their produce to middlemen at cheaper prices.
Problems like these have prompted farmers of Nawalparasi to switch to other crops. As a result, sugarcane farming has lost steam over the years. Few years ago, Nawalparasi was home to 14,000 sugarcane farmers. But now the number of sugarcane farmers have dropped to 7,000, according to the Sugarcane Producers’ Committee of Nawalparasi. With this, output of sugarcane has also dropped significantly.
Earlier, sugar mills used to receive 4 million quintals of sugarcane. Now, the supply of the crop has dropped by 50 percent. There are three sugar mills—Lumbini, Bagmati and Indira—in the district. They require 2.5 to 3 million quintals of sugarcane. In 2002, the district’s sugarcane production reached its peak of 4.2 million quintals. Last year, the district grew 2.3 million quintals of sugarcane. This fiscal year, sugarcane was planted on 5,000 hectares, as against 7,000 hectares in the last fiscal year, according to the committee.