Sugarcane farmers warn of protest if issues unresolved

- SHANKAR ACHARYA, Parsa

Feb 14, 2015-

Sugarcane farmers have warned they will intensify protests if the government fails to address their long-standing issues such as setting the prices and market access.

Sugarcane growers on Friday submitted a four-point memorandum to Prime Minister Sushil Koirala through the chief district officer, demanding the problems be resolve at the earliest. They have given a three-day ultimatum to the government to address their demand.

Last year, the farmers were forced to burn their products after mills refused to buy them, while most of them were forced to sell on credit. As Reliance Sugar Mill in Bara was unable to take consignments from the farmers last year, the cane growers fear that they might face a similar problem this year too.

The farmers have long been complaining that sugar producers, taking advantage of the absence of a base price, delay setting the prices, forcing farmers to sell their produce at cheaper rates. Farmers have also been also forced to sell their produce on credit to prevent their cane from drying up in the fields.

Setting the base price is one of the longstanding issues. Every year during the harvest time, sugarcane growers and sugar mills are engaged in bitter confrontation for a traditional tug-of-war over the price.

In the four-point memorandum, the farmers have demanded the government and the mill pay compensation if their produces dry in the fields. The farmers have also demanded the government ensure market management for the next season and start the process of reviving the closed Birgunj Sugar Mill.

Farmers had breathed a sigh of relief after they were allowed to export their produces to bordering Indian towns this year, but their happiness did not last long as India’s Sashastra Seema Bal has started preventing the exports.

Subsequently, they knocked the administration’s door to find out a solution.

“We were forced to submit a memorandum to the prime minister to resolve the issue as were fear we might face problems this year too,” said Shahrum Raut, president of the Farmers Welfare Struggle Committee.

“We have given a three-day ultimatum to the government to resolve the issue,” he said, adding protest “is not our interest but a compulsion”.

The government does not set sugarcane prices, and factories and farmers are told to sort things out themselves, and this provision leads to tensions flaring up every year.

On Jan 3, 2011, the local administration was forced to impose a daylong curfew in a 13-km range along the East-West Highway in Sarlahi district following a strike organised by farmers demanding fixation of cane prices.

At least 40 police personnel were injured in clashes with the irate farmers.

Nepal produced 2.93 million tonnes of sugarcane in 2012, up from 2.71 million tonnes in 2011. Land under sugarcane farming has increased to 64,472 hectares in 2012 from 62,998 hectares in 2011, according to government statistics.

Published: 15-02-2015 09:41

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