Sugar mills ordered to prepare payment planThe Home Ministry has ordered sugar mills who have not been making payments to cane farmers on time to prepare a reliable payment plan as the outstanding debts have been piling up.
The Home Ministry has ordered sugar mills who have not been making payments to cane farmers on time to prepare a reliable payment plan as the outstanding debts have been piling up.
Issuing a notice through the respective District Administration Offices (DAOs) last week, the ministry instructed the proprietors of four sugar mills—Annapurna Sugar, Sarlahi; Everest Sugar and Chemicals Industries, Mahottari and Indira Sugar Mills and Bagmati Sugar Mills in Nawalparasi—to settle the dues as soon as possible.
The Home Ministry moved after farmers complained that they depend on the payment from the sugar mills to feed their families.
The DAOs have warned Rakesh Agrawal of Annapurna Sugar, Shashi Kant Agrawal of Everest Sugar, Gyan Prasad Bhattarai of Indira Sugar Mills and Jagadish Kumar Agrawal of Bagmati Sugar Mills. These four sugar mills owe a combined Rs8 billion to the sugarcane farmers.
Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Matrika Prasad Yadav said they held talks with the Home Ministry a few days ago to take stern action against the nonpayers.
“Although the factories are required to pay the farmers immediately for their sugar cane, they are delaying payment on the pretext of not being able to sell their products,” said Yadav. “The government will not let down the farmers whatever may be the cause.”
Home Secretary Prem Kumar Rai refuted media reports that the ministry had issued arrest warrants against the owners of the sugar factories. Rai said they had invited the sugar mills to hold talks under the aegis of the government. He said the Home Ministry had asked the proprietors of the sugar mills to present the payment modality under which they could settle the dues. According to him, sugar producers have been demanding that the government revise the import duty on sugar to protect domestic industry.
A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court gave the green signal to the government to raise the import duty on sugar from 15 percent to 30 percent. “However, the sugar producers have been urging the government to hike the duty to at least 60 percent,” Rai said. Saying that a drop in global sugar prices had led to cheap imported sugar flooding the Nepali market, sugar mill owners have been urging the government to raise the customs duty.
Raj Kumar Agrawal, vice-president of the Sugar Producers’ Association, said sugar producers were unable to sell their products due to the import of low priced goods. “I too have a massive stock of unsold sugar lying at my warehouse,” said Agrawal, adding that he owed Rs660 million to sugarcane farmers.
The farmers have been struggling to obtain payment for their crops for the last two months. The agitating cane growers even padlocked the production plants of four sugar factories. Following the incident, Industry Minister Yadav issued a warning to arrest errant sugar mill owners. Shashi Kant Agrawal, owner of Everest Sugar Mills and president of the Sugar Producers’ Association, could not be immediately contacted for comment.
The country’s demand for sugar stands at 220,000 tonnes annually. The government imports an average of 25,000-30,000 tonnes of sugar from India every year. In the last fiscal year, the government imported 50,000 tonnes of sugar to control price fluctuations.
Warrants issued ‘mistakenly’
KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Home Affairs said Sunday that arrest warrants had been mistakenly issued against sugar mill owners.
“Although the Industry Ministry had written to the Home Ministry to issue arrest warrants, it was an error. We had actually invited the mill owners for talks,” said Home Secretary Prem Kumar Rai, adding that they regretted the mistake.