TIRUCHY: Though almost all farmers in the country are suffering one way or the other, the nightmare of the sugarcane farmers in Tamil Nadu is even more. This is due to ‘adamant attitude’ of the private sugar factories in particular in refusing to settle the sugarcane arrears to the growers as well the Tamil Nadu
Government ignoring the sugarcane farmers’ plight, say farmers representatives.
Mr. D Raveendran, state general secretary of the Tamil Nadu Sugarcane farmers Association told DC here that there are 16 cooperative and two public section sugar plants, besides four private sugar mills in Tamil Nadu, of which both the Cooperative and public sector sugar plants used to be regularly paying the state advised price (SAP) for sugarcane,
But for the last four years, it has been a Herculean task to get the sugarcane arrears to the tune of Rs 218 crore from the 11 cooperative and public sector sugar mills. Chief Minister Edappadi K.Palaniswami on November 28 had insisted on the immediate settlement of this Rs 218 crore and he had assured a special loan for the purpose. Mr. Raveendran appealed that these arrears be settled to the farmers positively this year before Pongal festival in mid-January 2018.
He said part of the problem of the cooperative and public sector sugar plants running up huge losses and non-payment of arrears for the last four years was due to fact they were saddled with outdated machinery.
The arrears to be paid to sugarcane farmers by the private mills was even more staggering at Rs 1, 400 crore, he said. Sugarcane farmers also faced legal hurdles in getting the SAP, as the South Indian Sugar Mills Association had moved the Madras High Court pleading that the State government did not have powers to announce an SAP in the first place, he noted.
This added to the woes of the farmers. Mr. Raveendran urged the Chief Minister to ensure early settlement of the entire Rs 1400 crore arrears by the private sugar plants at the earliest. Referring to the sugar production of the state, he said during 2012-2013 it was 21.30 lakh tonnes and it came down to 9.55 lakh tonness during the last year. The agreement between the sugarcane farmers and their respective private sugar plants also assured that the FRP should be paid within 14 days as per the Sugarcane Control order 1966. In case of nonpayment, the respective sugar plant should pay 15 per cent interest every day, till their settlement of FRP. The order empowering the Commissioner of Sugar, respective district Collectors and the officials of the Agriculture department to use the Revenue Recovery Act and to get the arrears, was also not being implemented by the State Government, he added.
On reasons for the sharp fall in the State’s sugar production, he said it was mainly due to the State Government’s approach and the adamant stand of the private sugar plants. Worse, the Indian sugar mills Association was also saying that the Union Government should not fix the ‘FRP’ and wanted it to support the proposed revenue sharing formula only. But Tamil Nadu should “establish” its statutory right to announce ‘SAP’ to protect farmers’ interests, he said. Other farmers’ organistions’ leaders including the veteran P. Ayyakannu, Ganapathy Ajeethan, R.V Giri and Mahadhanapuram V Rajaram, explained in detail the various other factors in Tamil Nadu for the declining sugar production and why sugarcane farmers continued to be in a limbo. It is still not ‘sweet Pongal’ for the farmers....