Sugarcane farmers distress sell after govt delays word on SAP
Farmers are selling off their crop at a lower price as they need to clear the fields for sowing the Rabi wheat crop
Virendra Nath Bhatt
Sugarcane farmers in Uttar Pradesh (UP) are restive over the inordinate delay in announcement of the State Advisory Price (SAP) by the state government, as it will delay the commencement of cane crushing by sugar mills. In the current season, 124 mills are expected to operate, which include 101 in the private sector and 23 in the cooperative sector. The delay has pushed many farmers to distress sell their crop to the manually operated Kolhu, which manufactures jaggery and Khandsari. Against the SAP of Rs 235 to Rs 250 per quintal announced for the last cane crushing season, the Kolhu units are offering Rs 140 to Rs 180 per quintal.
“As per the tradition the SAP should be announced in October and mills should start functioning from 15 October. Due to the delay, the farmers are left with no option but to sell the cane to Kolhu units,” said Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan convener VM Singh, adding, “the Kolhu units were paying better price a month back but now the price has crashed as the farmers are getting panicky since neither the mills have started cane crushing nor the state government seems to be in a hurry to announce the SAP.”
The SAP was expected to be announced last week. However, the state cabinet which met here on 20 November authorised Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to announce the SAP. Sugarcane farmers, around 4.5 million in UP, are forced to distress sell their crop as they want to clear their agriculture fields for sowing the Rabi wheat crop. The small and marginal farmers are worst affected.
In UP, the cane crushing season commences in the first week of October and the SAP is announced soon after. It is for the first time in a decade that even as November draws to a close, the state government has neither asked the mills to start cane crushing nor announced the SAP. The previous Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party had cracked the whip every year asking the mills to start cane crushing by mid-November.
“This government has been voted to power with the overwhelming support of farmers, yet the Samajwadi Party government instead of giving the farmers their due is more interested in offering sops like loan waivers. We do not want any largesse from the government, we want only which is rightfully due to the farmers,” said VM Singh. “The previous Mayawati government not only ensured that all the sugar mills commenced their operation in the month of November, the SAP was also raised by Rs 40 per quintal in 2009-10 and 2010-11,” Singh added.
The SAP for sugarcane in UP had always been a bone of contention between the private sugar mills. The SAP is traditionally higher than the statutory minimum price (SMP) fixed by the Centre. In the last decade, the UP Sugar Mills Association, (UPSMA) a body comprising private sugar mill owners, had challenged the jurisdiction of the state government to announce the SAP in Allahabad High Court. The court had upheld the government’s right to determine the SAP.
In 2011, the then UP CM Mayawati had announced the SAP on 8 November, raising it over the previous year by Rs 40 to 250/quintal for the early variety and by Rs 35 to 240/quintal for the common variety, which accounts for 60-70 per cent of total output. This year the farmers are demanding at least Rs 300 per quintal. “The input cost and the price of the sugarcane are both determined by the state government and as per the input cost the SAP should be more then Rs 300 per quintal,” said Sudhir Pawar, president, Kisan Jagriti Manch.
Meanwhile, UPSMA said that over two dozen sugar mills have started cane crushing and offering the SAP which was announced for the last cane crushing season 2010-11 by the state government. “The member mills of the UPSMA would abide by the SAP fixed by the state government and most of the mills are expected to be operational by the end of November,” said Deepak Guptara, secretary, UPSMA.
Virendra Nath Bhatt is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.