Sugarcane farmers in Rautahat forced to sell their produce at lower pricesWith sugar mills in the area shutting down and the minimum support price of sugarcane not fixed, helpless farmers find themselves at a crossroads.
Sukhlal Sah, a farmer of Samanpur, Rautahat was forced to sell his produce to the jaggery industry at a much lower price after the sugar mill in his district got closed.
“We have started selling sugarcane at Rs400 per quintal. Sugarcane farmers have been hit the hardest after the closure of the sugar mill,” said Sah. “The farmers’ attraction towards sugarcane farming is declining and I too am thinking of not cultivating sugarcane anymore.”
The farmers have started selling sugarcane to the jaggery industry at Rs400 per quintal. One sugar mill is closed in the Rautahat district while the other one has not made any preparations to procure sugarcane. With the harvest season starting and the minimum support price not yet fixed and the sugar mills remaining closed or not preparing to buy sugarcane, the farmers are being forced to sell their sugarcane produce at throwaway prices.
With Shree Ram Sugar Mill located in Garuda Municipality remaining closed, the farmers of the district are forced to sell sugarcane at a low price to the jaggery industry. The shutdown of the mill has hit hard to sugarcane farmers. The number of sugarcane farmers is decreasing in recent times.
The Garuda Sugar Mill owned by Golchha has been closed since last year as it had been running at a loss. As the mill got shut down, the farmers started selling sugarcane to the jaggery industry at a cheaper price.
Baba Baijunath Sugar Mill in Katahariya Municipality has not started crushing the sugarcane due to which the farmers said that they are forced to sell sugarcane to the jaggery industry.
The government has not even fixed the price of sugarcane yet for this year’s harvest. Last year, the minimum support price of sugarcane was set at Rs590 rupees per quintal.
As farmers rush towards planting winter crops like lentils and wheat, they have already started offloading their sugarcane at a much lower price to the jaggery industry. There are 14 jaggery industries in operation in Gadhimai Municipality-4, Susanderpur area of the district. The industry is buying sugarcane at low rates from the farmers and producing jaggery.
With the sugar mills shutting down, the farmers are no longer attracted towards sugarcane production.
Bisun Yadav, director of the jaggery industry, said the price of sugarcane will be fixed according to the demand for jaggery. "As there is no fixed market price for jaggery, selling it at a higher price could cause losses,” he said. "The price that the jaggery industry is giving to farmers for their sugarcane is the highest,” he claimed.
Yadav said that crushing 12 quintals of sugarcane produces a quintal of jaggery. Of the jaggery produced, the price of black jaggery is Rs5,000 per quintal, while the white one costs Rs6,000 per quintal. The jaggery industry operators said that sugarcane is being purchased based on the selling price of jaggery.
Farmers get nearly Rs600 per quintal while selling their sugarcane to the sugar mills.
Shree Ram Sugar Mill was established in Garuda in 1993 with the aim of crushing the sugarcane procured from the farmers of neighbouring districts Bara, Parsa, Sarlahi and Rautahat. But the director of the mill closed the mill saying that it was running at a loss due to multiple reasons. Now the jaggery industry is buying sugarcane from the farmers.
During the 1990s, sugarcane was cultivated in more than 14,000 bighas in the district. Ashok Yadav, president of the Rautahat Sugarcane Producers Association, said that the number of farmers producing sugarcane has been declining after getting into trouble in getting payments for their produce.
“In earlier days, Shree Ram Sugar Mill started creating trouble by not making payments on their purchase of sugarcane. And later, the mill got closed on the pretext of loss,” Yadav said. "The sugarcane production is now restricted to 5,000 bighas,” he said, adding that after not being able to sell their sugarcane on time, the number of farmers planting sugarcane has been reducing.
Yadav said that the farmers sold their sugarcane to the jaggery industry in cash, at a cheaper price, instead of leaving their produce in the field to dry. The long trend of sugar mills not operating and the minimum support prices not being fixed on time have brought a lot of suffering to the sugarcane farmers.
Baiju Babara, director of Baijunath Sugar Mill, said that their mill will become operational soon. "There is a delay in the operation of the mill due to some technical reasons," he said. “Farmers have hurried to sell sugarcane to the jaggery industry, but it will be appropriate for them to be patient for some time.”