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Homesugarcane farmerSugar economics unlikely to be a poll issue as over 60% mills...

Sugar economics unlikely to be a poll issue as over 60% mills make full payments to farmers

Of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, sugarcane and the economics surrounding this industry play an important role in the politics of at least 12 seats.

ayment to farmers for their sugarcane produce is unlikely to be an election issue in Maharashtra this season as out of the 207 sugar mills, which started operation for the 2023-24 cane crushing season, 127 of them have made full payments to the farmers.

As on April 15, mills in Maharashtra procured 1060.69 lakh tonnes of cane from farmers and were supposed to pay Rs 32,803 crores as per the government declared Fair Remunerative Price (FRP). Mills have cleared payment of Rs 31,416 crore and are yet to clear dues to the tune of Rs 1,387 crores. While 127 mills have made full payments, 80 of them have unpaid dues. Industry experts feel this due would be cleared before the start of the next crushing season.

Of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, sugarcane and the economics surrounding this industry play an important role in the politics of at least 12 seats. Sitting MP of Kolhapur Sanjay Mandalik, Dhairyasheel Mohite Patil–the NCP(Sharad Pawar) candidate from Madha; sitting MP from Ahmednagar Dr Sujay Vikhe Patil, BJP candidate from Beed Pankaja Munde are some of the prominent sugar barons who are in the fray this year. In Sangli, Kolhapur, Hatkanagale and Madha, the economics of cane plays an important role in any election.

The sugar commissioner’s cane arrear report, released on April 15, shows that most of the mills in Sangli, Kolhapur, Hatkanagle, Satara, Solapur and Madha have cleared their dues. Some mills in Ahmednagar are yet to clear dues. Mills in Marathwada and North Maharashtra have run up dues, which they hope to clear up before the start of the next crushing season.

Hatkanagale in Kolhapur district would see farm leader and founder of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana Raju Shetti trying to regain his seat, which he had won for two times. Shetti’s rise as a farm leader is linked closely to the cane pricing. Shetti has built his career by agitating against sugar mills and ensuring better prices for farmers.

In 2019, Shetti lost his seat to Dhairyashil Mane of Shiv Sena but this year, he is trying to regain his seat. Over the last year or so, Shetti has focused mostly on cane pricing and hopes to gain politically from it.

It was not just politics which propelled the quick release of the farmers’ dues. The sugar industry in Maharashtra gained from unexpected windfall gains in terms of increased productivity. As against the initial estimates of 85 lakh tonnes of sugar, the state’s production of the sweetener crossed 108 lakh tonnes.

Sugar prices have been mostly constant and are expected to rise further due to the Centre’s decision to allow diversion of more sugar for production of ethanol. “Overall, the issue of payment to sugarcane farmers is under control and would not be a part of the electoral dialogue at least in the sugar belt,” said the chairperson of a sugar mill in Solapur.

 

 

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