Despite Nov 22 deadline, sugar crushing in Maharashtra held up due to cane farmers’ demand for higher price

Not a single sugar mill has started crushing despite Maharashtra’s sugar season of 2019-20 officially commencing last Friday (22 November). The delay is being linked to the ongoing political crisis in the state and the aggressive agitation launched by farmer body Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) for seeking higher prices for cane growers.

The farmers’ outfit has demanded Rs 200 per tonne over and above the fair and remunerative price (FRP) as cane payment to farmers and threatened millers that they would not let crushing begin in the state unless the millers agree to this demand.

A proposed meet between farmer leaders and sugar millers could not take place on Monday as most of the millers are stationed in Mumbai and are not reachable due to the on-going political developments. A majority of the millers are affiliated to political parties.

The millers, most of whom are MLAs from Kolhapur district, had proposed a meeting with the SSS for talks on cane prices after a farmer conference held at Jaisinghpur where SSS leader Raju Shetti declared the cane price per tonne.

Although the sugar season officially began last Friday, not a single mill in the state has commenced cane crushing because of the agitation by the SSS, Maharashtra sugar commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said to Financial Express, adding that he did not expect crushing to begin before the month-end.

The Sanghatana has given millers time until December 15 to accept to their demands failing which the farmer body would intensify its agitation.

All millers from Kolhapur district had come together under the leadership of Congress MLC Satej Patil and independent MLA Prakash Awade had called for a meeting with SSS activists in an attempt to find a way out over cane crushing price. Accordingly, all parties agreed to meet on November 25 after the SSS declared their demand of per tonne sugarcane price and discuss the same.

Last week, members of the farmer outfit allegedly torched 10 trucks ferrying cane in Kolhapur. The incident took place when cane harvested from local fields was being taken to a mill in Karnataka through Kolhapur’s Shirol taluka.

Shekhar Ghosh is consulting editor, Indoasiancommodities.com. He has edited and written for publications like Business India, Business Standard, Business Today, Outlook and many other international publications. He can be reached at shekhar.ghosh@indoasiancommodities.in.

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