After delayed opening, Shreeram Sugar Mill closes again after two weeksThe factory owes Rs 250 million to sugarcane farmers in outstanding payments for their crops.
Shreeram Sugar Mill resumed operations on February 12 following pressure from the government, but it shut down again two weeks later after crushing 3,800 tonnes of sugarcane, citing lack of raw materials.
The factory had remained closed as it owes Rs250 million to sugarcane farmers in outstanding payments for their crops, and reopening would mean attracting demands to pay up.
Shyamananda Yadav, senior office assistant at the mill, said that the mill had been operating partially.
“We should have operated the mill with the start of the harvesting season, but it did not happen. With the delayed operation, the mill would not be able to produce sugar, and this would lead to huge losses this season,” he said.
Shreeram has been purchasing sugarcane from farmers in Bara, Parsa and Rautahat.
Hari Narayan Sah, a sugarcane farmer of Gadhimai, Sangrampur, said he sold his crop to another mill in Sarlahi as Shreeram did not reopen for a long time. Sah produces sugarcane on 4 bighas of land. The mill owes him Rs200,000 for his previous crops.
Last December, farmers from various Tarai districts came to Kathmandu to stage a protest after not receiving the money owed to them by different sugar mills. The outstanding payments had been piling up for many years.
Following pressure from the government and farmers, Shreeram resumed operations. But it stalled reopening until the farmers had sold their sugarcane to other mills in Mahottari, Sarlahi and Bara. “If there was adequate sugarcane, the mill would have remained open till May 22,” said Yadav.
Shreeram has a capacity to crush 250,000 tonnes of sugarcane in one season. It was running for only eight hours daily while it used to operate round the clock in the past.
The mill usually reopened for the annual crushing season in mid-December. It used to produce 150,000 tonnes of sugar per season.
The farmers started selling their harvests to other sugar mills after seeing no signs of Shreeram coming into operation. The mill had made no move to buy sugarcane from the farmers earlier.
The cane growers were confused and they sold their crops to mills in other districts, said Ashok Yadav, president of the Sugarcane Producers Association, Rautahat.
“The farmers did not want to sell their sugarcane to other mills outside the district, but they had no choice because Shreeram did not inform them in advance nor did it show any interest in reopening on time,” he said.
Only a few farmers brought their sugarcane to the mill during the final days of the harvest, said Shah.
There are 12,000 farmers in the district. They grow 140,000 tonnes of sugarcane on 8,000 bighas of land annually.