Sugarcane farmers threaten to agitate if the price is not raisedThe Ministry of Agriculture said that they had recommended retaining last year’s minimum support price.
A farmers' group has threatened to agitate if the minimum support price of sugarcane is not raised amid reports that the government is expected to keep it at last year's level.
Kapil Muni Mainali, president of the Federation of Sugarcane Producers Association, said that information has been leaked that the farm gate price of sugarcane will remain the same this year too.
“If the government fixes the minimum support price of sugarcane at less than Rs600 per quintal, we are prepared to organise an anti-government protest,” he said. “We cannot sell our crops for less than Rs600 due to the raised cost of production in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Mainali told the Post.
He said that setting the price at less than Rs600 per quintal would hurt a large number of cane producers as everyone knows that the price of sugar has been rising, but the price of sugarcane has remained unchanged for the last three years.
“As far as we know, the government and mill owners intend to keep the price at Rs544 per quintal this year.” Last year, the floor price of cane was set at Rs536 per quintal.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development said that they had recommended retaining last year’s price.
Hari Bahadur KC, spokesperson for the Agriculture Ministry, said that the Industry Ministry would hold a discussion and table the proposed minimum support price at the cabinet after it is recommended by the Agriculture Ministry.
According to KC, there will be one price for all kinds of sugarcane, and there will be no three-tier pricing system as proposed by sugar producers.
“It will be difficult to separate different grades of sugarcane as no quality checking mechanism has been established,” he said.
Sugar producers had proposed a three-tier pricing system for sugarcane according to the quality as the government prepares to announce the minimum support price for this harvest season starting November.
On Saturday, a meeting of the Federation of Sugarcane Producers Association held in Sarlahi decided not to sell their cane for less than Rs600 per quintal this year. Sugarcane growers from Sarlahi, Bara, Parsa, Mahottari, Rautahat and two other districts have also decided not to accept anything below Rs600 per quintal.
According to the federation, they will protest on the highway if a price lower than what they expect is fixed. “We will submit a memorandum to the government and wait for their response,” said Mainali.
Narayan Prasad Regmi, spokesperson for the Industry Ministry, said that they had asked the Agriculture Ministry to send the recommended price.
For years, most sugar mills have not been paying sugarcane farmers for their crops. The outstanding payments have piled up to millions.
According to Mainali, Annapurna Sugar Mills owes around Rs180 million, Shreeram Sugar Mill Rs240 million, Lumbini Sugar Mill Rs100 million and Indira Sugar Mill has yet to pay Rs60 million to sugarcane farmers.
Regmi said that they had warned mill owners last Thursday to settle the dues of the farmers or else face government action.
Some mill owners said they were in the process of making payment while Shreeram Sugar Mill and Lumbini Sugar Mill have promised to pay the farmers within a month, he said.
In the fiscal year 2012-13, Nepali farmers harvested a high of 20.50 million quintals of sugarcane which was used to produce 256,000 tonnes of sugar. Production has been dropping since then, reaching 10.40 million quintals in the last fiscal year, which was enough to make 120,000 tonnes of sugar.
“This season, production is expected to decline by 15 percent," said Mainali.
Sugarcane farmers of West Nawalparasi are in great difficulty as they have not received their money for three years from Lumbini Sugar Mill and Indira Sugar Mill.
The mills made repeated promises to pay the farmers, but they never came up with the money .
Umesh Chandra Yadav, chairman of the Sugarcane Farmers' Committee, Nawalparasi, said that the farmers had been protesting time to time for payment, but the mill owners have not been making payment saying that sugar prices were low and that their mills were operating at a loss.
"We are now taking to the streets. We are ready to launch a protest," he said.
Buddhi Bahadur Chaudhary of Sarawal-2 said that he could not repay the bank loan he had taken to cultivate sugarcane after making many trips to the mills and the District Administrative Office to get his money.
"What can we expect from the mills when they do not obey the administration's orders?" he said. "Other crops do not do as well as sugarcane that's why we grow it, but we never get payment on time for our harvest," he said.