Sugarcane farmers call off their protest as government promises payment in 21 daysThe four-point agreement also includes the formation of a technical committee to solve the longstanding problems of the farmers. A similar deal was made in January.
Protesting sugarcane farmers have called off their indefinite protests after 16 days following an assurance from the government that it would get the defaulting sugar mills to pay outstanding dues to them within 21 days.
The sugarcane farmers and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies reached a four-point deal Monday evening. The deal includes the formation of a joint technical committee which will come up with recommendations within 120 days to solve the short- and long-term problems faced by sugarcane farmers and sugar mills.
“We have agreed to clear the dues of the farmers within 21 days effective from Monday, and if any sugar mills fail to pay, action will be taken against them,” said Narayan Prasad Regmi, joint secretary at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies.
The Ministry said the action against the mills would include seizing their properties, halting their transactions and directing local authorities to arrest the concerned mill owners.
“We are hopeful of getting the dues within the deadline,” Ram Swartha Raya, president of Sugarcane Farmer Struggle Committee, told the Post. “We came to Kathmandu to recover our dues this time. But since the government could not get the mills to clear the dues, we decided to go for a deal. We hope to be paid within 21 days. The political situation was another factor that made us agree to the deal.”
Earlier, the farmers had said they would not sit for talks unless they were paid.
This is the second time this calendar year that a deal has been reached between the government and the farmers.
On January 5, the sugarcane farmers had called off their strike after 13 days of protest following the government’s commitment to get the defaulting sugar mills to pay them their outstanding dues by January 21 and form a committee to look into their grievances.
But since the government did not live by its promise, the farmers resorted to coming to the Capital once again on December 13 to start their agitation.
The joint technical team will consist of a representative each from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, Ministry of Finance, and three from among sugarcane farmers with one each from the eastern, central and western parts of the country.
The technical team will look into how much is actually owed to the farmers as the mill owners say that they owed Rs550 million to the farmers before the agitation started on December 13 while the farmers claim Rs900 million in outstanding dues.
The team will also submit suggestions to solve the problem of farmers not getting the minimum support price fixed by the government.
The minimum support price includes a government subsidy that is equivalent to 90 percent of the value added tax levied on the sugar sales at current prices by sugar mills.
Of the minimum support price of Rs544.33 per quintal set for the harvest of the current season, that runs from November to February, the subsidy is Rs65.28.
But sugar mills have been paying less than the minimum support price set by the government with the farmers saying that they are not being given the subsidy amount.
The technical team will also submit suggestions on determining the deadline for payment to sugarcane farmers after they sell their produce to the mills since the mills pay the farmers only after they sell the sugar in the market.
The agreement also includes asking the Ministry of Home Affairs to make arrangements for halting the use of the weighing machine in Sarlahi district as there have been problems with it.
The agreement was signed by Raya on behalf of the farmers and Regmi on behalf of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies.
Following the four-point deal, the protesting sugarcane farmers will be returning to their homes from Tuesday, according Raya.
“As the Industry Ministry will be responsible if the sugar mills fail to clear the dues within 21 days, we have trust in the deal,” he said.