At the time when the unending agrarian crisis in India is one of the major problems in the country, Uttar Pradesh sugarcane farmers are facing a payment crisis running into thousands of crores. In Uttar Pradesh’s Shamli district, which is located 30 kilometres from Muzaffarnagar, the farmers are demanding sugarcane mills owners to pay their due payment of rupees 80 crores for the 2017-18 season and Rs 120 crores for the 2018-19 season.
On January 16, some farmers protested outside the gates of the Upper Doab sugar mill, Shamli to demand their payment. The protest which was not supported by any union or political party was soon joined by hundreds of farmers.
‘Our survival gets difficult’
The 65-year-old Vishnu Singh, who also participated in the protest told The Logical Indian, “The farmers need their payment from the mill. They have not paid us for the last two years.”
According to him, the Upper Doab sugar mill has not cleared pending sugarcane dues since March last year. He says that the mill owes Rs 80 crore for the 2017-18 season and Rs 120 crores for the 2018-19 season.
Sugarcane is a crop that can endure weather vagaries and gives fixed returns because sugar mills procure it at prices fixed by the government, which is why many depend on this crop for their livelihood.
“We spend a lot of money on growing and taking care of our crop. In the end, we get dependent on the mill to pay our payments.” He says that there are many farmers who have not paid their children’s school fee for a long time and they are hoping to get their payment so that they can pay at least the school fees.
“My payment is also pending. The mill owes me some Rs 1.5 lakhs for both the years,” says Vishnu, who is from Nishad village in Shamli district. Another farmer Ram Kumar told us that the company owes him some Rs 80,000 for one year.
The farmers’ demand
Vishnu said that the farmers from Shamli and other nearby villages are angry about their due payments. He further said that the farmer’s major demands in the protest were a release of due payments and an increase in sugarcane prices.
“The mill owners should increase the sugarcane rate atleast every year. Prices for petrol, vegetable and other goods is increasing, but there is no increase in sugarcane prices, how is this fair for the farmers whose life is only dependent on the crop,” lamented Vishnu.
He said that as of now, sugarcane is being sold at Rs 325 per quintal to the sugar mills. In this, a farmer also has to bear the cost of the transport to supply the sugarcane to the mill.
The sugarcane minister overlooked our demands
On January 22, on the sixth day of the farmer’s protest, Suresh Rana an MLA from Thanabhawan, Shamli district, who is also UP’s sugarcane and sugar development minister was some 60 km away from the protest site, inaugurating a banquet hall. The MLA did not come to address the farmers. “The BJP does not have the political will to solve the farmers’ problem,” Jayant Choudhary, vice president of the Rashtriya Lok Dal told The Wire.
The peaceful farmer protest that went on for 10 days, ended on January 28, after mills authorities, District Magistrate Akhilesh Singh, Sugarcane minister Suresh Rana and 11 farmers who lead the protest had a meeting in which they discussed the farmer’s demands. “In the meeting, they agreed to demand of releasing our payments. It was decided that on January 31, the mill will release a due amount of new session which is Rs 15,000 crores. And by next month, February 11, the rest of the due amount for the last session, including the interest would be sent to farmer’s account number.”
On February 1, The Logical Indian again spoke to the farmers who told us that the some of them got payment in their account. While the other farmers are still waiting for it.
What is the actual problem?
According to the reports, the payment crisis of Sugarcane crop is due to the demand and supply mismatch of the crop. With the arrival of alternative sweeteners replacing sugar and an increase in health consciousness among the people there has been a decrease in the global sugar demand.
While demand growth is decreased, the production of sugarcane continued to rise due to superior seeds, better productivity of sugarcane per acre, reported the Wire.
According to the report, India is the second largest producer of sugar (17.1%) in the world after Brazil. Among all the states, the three largest producers – Uttar Pradesh produces 36.1% sugarcane followed by Maharashtra (34.3%) and Karnataka (11.7%). In India, sugar production has increased from 24.8 million tonnes in 2015-16 to 32.25 million tonnes in 2017-18 and is expected to touch 35.5 million tonnes in 2018-19. However, the domestic demand remains stagnant at around 25 million tonnes.