Farmers-mills dispute ends as govt fixes cane price

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

May 8, 2014-

A four-month dispute between sugarcane farmers and sugar producers ended on Tuesday after a government-led committee fixed the sugarcane price for this season.

As the government usually does not fix the sugarcane price and the factories and farmers are told to sort things out themselves, tensions flare up every year. However, the government was forced to take the issue this year after the Constituent Assembly members criticised the government over neglecting the farmer grievances.

Sugarcane price has been fixed at Rs 476 per quintal for this season, Rs 5 per less than last season’s price. As the price has been fixed after the harvest ended, it has drawn a mixed reaction from the farmers.

Farmers had been expecting at least a 10 percent increase in the price amid soaring farm costs. On the other hand, sugar producers had been arguing the rates had to be reduced as sugar price had dropped in the market.

Kapil Muni Mainali, president of the Sugarcane Producers Federation, said the dispute over the price was resolved after six rounds meetings.

Farmers in Parsa are said they were neither happy nor sad over the revised rates. Saharum Raut, district president of the Farmers Rights’ Protection Committee, said only 2,500 quintals of sugarcane is left to be sold, which means the revised price has not cheered the producers. “The price has been fixed at the end of the season,” said Raut, adding the downward revision of the price suggests “the government is neglecting the farmers”.

Sugar mills in Parsa had been demanding price be fixed at Rs 408 per quintal, equivalent to the price offered to farmers in bordering Indian areas.

However, farmers in Bara welcomed the government’s move. They said they were happy to learn that the dispute between farmers and sugar mills has been resolved and the rate fixed by the government is uniform in all Tarai areas. The farmers in Bara had been demanding Rs 481 per quintal, while mills there were stuck at Rs 460 per quintal.

Nawalparasi farmers expressed dissatisfaction over the revised rates, saying the government’s move came very late as the mills had already purchased sugarcane from farmers.

Umesh Yadav, president of Sugarcane Producers Committee, said the late fixation of the price has put the farmers in more trouble. “There has been a rise in the prices of fertiliser, seed, irrigation and manpower every year. But the government has reduced the rates,” Yadav said.  Nawalparasi produced 2.2 million quintal sugarcane this year.

Lumbini Sugar Mill, Bagmati Sugar Mill, Indra Sugar Mills and Mohini Sugar Mills had purchased sugarcane from Nawalparasi farmers.

Meanwhile, Shri Ram Sugar Mill in Rautahat paid Rs 200 million in last year’s dues to the sugarcane farmers. The farmers were forced to sell their produce on credit to avoid their produce drying up in fields as farmers, mills haggled over price. Farmer Ram Nivas Shah said he received Rs 28,000 after frequenting the mill for the last several months.

The mill’s manager Rajesh Patel said the mill has also started making payments for this year’s purchases.

(Inputs from Aman Koirala in Sarlahi, Shiva Puri in Rautahat, Laxmi Shah in Bara, Shankar Acharya in Parsa and Bechu Gaud in Nawalparasi)

Published: 09-05-2014 08:42

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