Mid-way into the 2021-22 sugarcane crushing season, mills in Maharashtra have reported nearly Rs 3,400 crore in cane arrears they owe to farmers.
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 for cane purchased in installments.
Of the 187 state mills in operation, 96 have already got their farmers to sign such agreements.
If mills are unable to pay the FRP within 14 days of sale of cane, they can face action from the authorities. However, in case the mills have such agreements in place, such action can be stalled. So, 96 mills have already got their farmers to sign agreements, wherein they accept 70-80 per cent of the payment within 14 days and the remaining amount is to be paid in two installments, one after the end of the season and one before the start of the next season.
Farmers’ organisations have often protested this method, saying it was not fair on part of the mills to pay the FRP in parts. Leaders of farmers’ organisations have said many cane farmers don’t know the full extent of this clause
Meanwhile, with the season already half over, Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad has released the colour-coded list of mills on basis of their payment history. As per his ranking, only 67 mills have cleared 100 per cent of their dues (both with and without agreements). The cause of concern is that mid-season, 57 mills have reported only 30 per cent payment, with 11 mills failing to pay even a single paise to their farmers.
These mills are likely to face action, as part of which Gaikwad would recover the dues from the revenue earned by auctioning off their property.