File photo: A farmer works in his sugarcane field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.
Sugar mills owe the farmers nearly Rs 13,000 crore as on September 11 for the crop procured during the 2019-20 season that started October last year, the Parliament was informed on Tuesday.
- Last Updated: September 16, 2020, 6: 40 PM IST
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Farmers from states like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh among others have been protesting since past several days over two major issues. Firstly, to express their anger against the three agricultural ordinances, which as per some farmer leaders, will corporatise the sector and cripple the farmers who are already under debts. Secondly, the farmers, particularly from Uttar Pradesh, are demanding the clearance of pending sugarcane dues.
Minister of State for Food and Consumer Affairs, Danve Raosaheb Dadarao, revealed the official amount of the sugarcane dues which remained pending in across 16 States and Union Territories. Sugar mills owe the farmers nearly Rs 13,000 crore as on September 11 for the crop procured during the 2019-20 season that started October last year, the Parliament was informed on Tuesday.
The worst hit were the farmers of Uttar Pradesh, whose dues alone were estimated to be Rs 10,000 crore. The government in its reply said that the farmers of Uttar Pradesh were not owed anything last year but the debt within one year alone climbed to this staggering amount. The farmers of Gujarat were the next worst hit with Rs 863 crore in unpaid dues.
“Out of total cane dues payable of Rs 75,585 crore for sugar season 2019-20 as on September 11, 2020, about Rs 62,591 crore have been paid to the sugarcane farmers and only Rs 12,994 crores cane dues are yet to be paid,” Dadarao said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
Earlier this year, an association of sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh wrote to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath seeking a cash subsidy bailout from the state government to enable them to pay their outstanding dues.
In its response on Tuesday, the government stated that the unpaid dues to sugarcane farmers in 2016-17 and earlier years was Rs 1,899 crore, in 2017-18 it reduced to Rs 242 crore and almost doubled in the following year to Rs 548 crore. Between last year and the current financial year it grew almost 24 times.
In the past few days, the protests by sugarcane farmers were reported from Amritsar, Muzaffarnagar, Hoshiarpur and parts of Rajasthan.
To explain why dues of sugarcane farmers have been mounting, the government in the Parliament stated, “Payment of cane price to sugarcane farmers by the sugar mills is a continuous process. However, on account of surplus sugar production during the previous sugar seasons, the sugar prices remained depressed which adversely affected the liquidity of the sugar mills resulting in accumulation of cane price arrears of the farmers.”
The government further said that it had taken several measures to enable sugar mill owners to clear the arrears of farmers. “The central government has taken various measures in past three sugar seasons viz extended assistance to sugar mills to facilitate the export of sugar; extended assistance to mills for maintaining buffer stocks; extended soft loans to sugar mills through banks to clear cane price dues; and fixed minimum selling price of sugar.” However, the government has announced no immediate bailout plan that could help the farmers get their dues immediately.