Sugarcane farmers end protest as government promises paymentsFarmers and Industry Ministry reach a deal on setting up a task force to study an automated pricing system for sugarcane.
Sugarcane farmers have withdrawn their indefinite protest following the government’s assurance that the state would get the defaulting sugar mills to pay their outstanding dues by January 21.
On Friday, the sugarcane farmers and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies reached a five-point deal that also includes setting up a task force to study an automated system to fix sugarcane prices every year.
The task force has also been mandated to prepare reports on providing fertilisers, seeds and machinery required for sugarcane farming to make the country self-sufficient on sugar and even export the surplus.
Tussles flare up every year between sugarcane cultivators and sugar producers over the rates of the crop.
Most of the times, factory owners refuse to clear the dues on time and delay the collection of sugarcane, which is a cash crop that needs to be harvested and sent for processing on time.
Farmers often incur huge losses because of the delay in their product reaching sugar mills.
The Cabinet on February 26, 2015, had instructed the Industry Ministry to fix sugarcane prices after tussles erupted between the mills and sugarcane farmers, but the policy has not been implemented consistently.
In order to address the grievances that the farmers are not paid the subsidy allocated by the government, the ministry said it would request the Finance and Agriculture ministries to release the amount on time.
The government has also assured the farmers that a public relation unit will be set up at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies to address their grievances regarding delayed payment and supply of farm inputs.
“We are now hopeful of getting our money from the sugar mills,” Rajesh Yadav, a sugarcane farmer, told the Post. “We have decided to return home tomorrow. But if things don't happen as promised by the government, we will come back to protest again.”
According to joint-secretary Dinesh Bhattarai, spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, the owner of Annapurna Sugar Mills, Rakesh Kumar Agrawal, came in contact and made payments of Rs5 million on Thursday and Friday.
“He [Agrawal] has made a written commitment to clearing the remaining dues of Rs120 million by January 21,” said Bhattarai.
According to sugarcane farmers, Agrawal owes them Rs500 million in payments. Sugar mills owe more than Rs1.28 billion in outstanding dues to the farmers. Farmers have also complained that they have not received a subsidy of Rs1.32 billion provided by the government.
However, Lok Raj Awasthi, a campaigner for the farmers, expressed his doubts over the agreement reached by the government.
“This type of agreement was made before as well, but farmers have been struggling to get the amount for their products for five years,” he said.
In 2018, the Home Ministry ordered sugar mills that had not been paying the farmers on time to prepare a reliable payment plan, as the debts had been piling up. But the mills ignored the directive.
In February 2014, a delegation of sugarcane producers from Nawalparasi district met with then-prime minister Sushil Koirala and requested him to address their problems.
On January 3, 2011, the local administration was forced to impose a daylong curfew on a 13-km stretch of the East-West Highway in Sarlahi district following a strike enforced by farmers demanding fixation of cane prices. At least 40 police personnel were injured in clashes with the irate farmers.