Maharashtra’s sugar commissioner has issued a notification warning sugar mills against shutting down operations without informing the Commissionerate and giving prior notice to farmers. The move comes in the wake of an expected bumper crop production in the state after cane was cultivated on 12.32 lakh hectares and ensuring that all the cane is crushed, Shekar Gaikwad, sugar commissioner said.
Around 1,096 lakh tonnes of cane is available for crushing this season. Last crushing season had commenced on October 15, 2021, with the participation of 197 factories. Till date, the sugar mills have crushed around 845.23 tonnes of cane to produce 861.53 lakh quintals of sugar, he said. Another 300-350 tonnes remains to be crushed and some factories usually wind up operations without informing farmers who are then left with the cane.
Factories are expected to give a two-week notice to farmers through public channels so that farmers can approach with cane stocks, he said. Directions have been issued to ensure that all the cane in the area is crushed and if the sugar mill is not in a position to do this, the mill should coordinate with other mills in the neighbouring area.
Mills in the state are expected to begin closing down operations in the next 20 days. Meanwhile, mills in Maharashtra have reported nearly Rs 1,532.26 crore in cane arrears they owe to farmers, as per the latest arrear report.
Many mills have taken the clause offered in the Sugarcane Control Order, 1966, to sign agreements with their farmers which gives them the option to pay the complete fair and remunerative price (FRP) for cane purchased in installments.
Of the 187 state mills in operation, 96 have persuaded their farmers to sign such agreements. Officials, however, were quick to point out that despite this, mills have already paid 91.11% of the total FRP amounting to Rs 15,710.88 crore. The total payable FRP as per the agreement including harvesting and transportation amounts to Rs 17,243.14 crore. Significantly, last season mills owed farmers around Rs 3,641.36 crore in FRP cane dues. This season, while 83 factories have paid 100% of the cane dues to farmers, 108 mills still owe cane payments, the latest cane arrear report stated.