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Maharashtra: Mills agree to pay more than FRP for cane purchased during last season

Decision taken after sugarcane farmers blocked NH-4 since Thursday morning to press demand for better prices

Founder of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and former MP Raju Shetti scored a partial victory over sugar mills in Kolhapur after the latter agreed to pay Rs 50-Rs 100 more per tonne over the government declared fair and remunerative price (FRP) for the sugarcane purchased from farmers during the last season (2022-23).

The decision was taken after thousands of sugarcane farmers, led by Shetti, on Thursday blocked National Highway 4 (NH-4) connecting Pune and Bengaluru near Kolhapur to press their demand for extra payment.

The farmers’ blockade started at 11am after Shetti paid his respects at the Mahalaxmi temple in Kolhapur. The agitation received a shot in the arm after Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj stopped by to support the farmers.

According to officials, traffic on NH-4 had been diverted via Hatkanangale, Panhala, and other routes. However, traffic was badly hit with many vehicles lining up at various exit points. Agitating farmers warned to continue their agitation till the sugar mills did not meet their demands.

Shetti had demanded Rs 400 per tonne extra over the government-declared FRP for cane sold to mills last season. For the present season, Shetti has demanded FRP as the first instalment payment.

Mills outrightly rejected this demand, saying it was not feasible for them to pay the extra amount. A meeting chaired by state cooperation minister Dilip Walse Patil failed to resolve the imbroglio, after which Shetti announced the blockade on NH-4.

While speaking to farmers, Shetti said if they decided to let go of the Rs 400 per tonne extra payment, they would never see that money again. “Mills have made windfall gains due to the rise in sugar prices. Now, they do not want to pass on the benefits to farmers,” he said.

Before this, Shetti had embarked on a padyatra to cover the districts of Sangli and Kolhapur to drum up support for the protests. As a result of the protests, mills in Maharashtra’s sugar bowl are yet to start operations fully, even though the sugar cane crushing season started on November 1.

On Wednesday, Shetti revised his demand and said farmers should be paid Rs 100/tonne over the FRP for the cane purchased from them last season.

After extensive dialogue between millers and farmers, it was decided that mills in the district which had paid less than Rs 3,000/tonne would pay Rs 100/tonne over the FRP while those who paid Rs 3,000/tonne or more would pay Rs 50/tonne to farmers.

Following this agreement, Shetti, who said earlier that farmers were prepared to spend the night on the road if the mills did not agree to their demands, decided to stop the agitation and cleared the highway.

The above news was originally posted on news.google.com

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