Sugarcane growers protest on East-West Highway

- AMAN KOIRALA, Sarlahi

Feb 19, 2015-

Hundreds of sugarcane growers on Wednesday staged a protest on the East-West Highway at Hariban demanding that the floor price for their products be set and that it be increased to reflect rising production costs. The demonstrations have spread and intensified in almost all the sugarcane producing districts.  

Every year during harvest time, sugarcane growers and sugar mills engage in a bitter confrontation for a traditional tug-of-war over the price. 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. The cane price is normally determined in Nepal based on the price offered by Indian mills to their farmers.

Sugarcane farmers said the crushing of sugarcane had started two months ago, but there is no sign of determining the new rate for this season. As farmers have demanded a hike in the rates in line with increased production costs, sugar producers have been ignoring their demand.

This year, farmers are asking for Rs 525 per quintal for their sugarcane. Last year, the rate was Rs 476 per quintal.

While sugarcane producers have been demanding a price hike, sugar producers said that they were unable to pay what the farmers were demanding.

“We conducted a number of meetings with the sugar mills, but they are firm on reducing the price for this season,” said Dev Bahadur Budhathoki, president of the Mill Gate Sugarcane Producers Association. “We have no alternative but to launch protests.”

Last week, sugarcane growers in Parsa had submitted a four-point memorandum to Prime Minister Sushil Koirala through the chief district officer demanding that the problems be resolved at the earliest. In Sarlahi, five associations of sugarcane growers—Nepal Sugarcane Producers Association, District Sugarcane Producers Association, Sugarcane Producers Farmers Development Society and Sugarcane Farmers Welfare Committee—have joined forces to strengthen their agitation against the government and the mills.  

Farmers have threatened to hold violent demonstrations if their demand are not met.  “As many farmers have sold their products two months ago to the mills, they are

not aware what the sugarcane price actually is, and this is unfortunate for them,”

said Raj Kumar Upreti, a farmer leader.

He added that hard working farmers were not getting a fair price for their sugarcane. “The government and the mill owners have conducted several rounds of meetings, but the price has not been determined yet.”

However, sugar producers said that the price of sugarcane should be reduced as sugar prices had fallen this year.

On January 3, 2011, the local administration was forced to impose a daylong curfew on either side of the East-West Highway up to 13 km in Sarlahi district following a strike organized by farmers demanding that cane prices be fixed. 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. The area under sugarcane farming has increased to 64,472 hectares in 2012 from 62,998 hectares in 2011, according to government statistics.

 

Farmers picket DAO brandishing sugarcane

PARSA: Sugarcane farmers here on Wednesday picketed the District Administration Office brandishing sugarcane as part of their protest to pressurize the government to set the price and provide market access for their products.

The agitating farmers met with Chief District Officer Himnath Dawadi and urged him to create an environment for them to sell their products to mills in Nepal or India. They have threatened to launch a stern protest if the government does not support them.

Last year, sugarcane 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 buy sugarcane from the farmers last year, they 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 price, forcing farmers to sell their crops at cheaper rates. Farmers have also been also forced to sell their sugarcane on credit to prevent the crops from drying up in the fields.

This year, farmers experienced relief after they were allowed to export their products to bordering Indian towns, but their happiness did not last long as India’s SSB has started stopping shipments. (PR)

Published: 20-02-2015 09:04

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