Under ‘pressure’ from millers, govt unlikely to hike cane SAP

Chandigarh, November 4: The state government is likely to continue with last year’s State-Advised Price (SAP) of sugarcane, apparently under pressure from private sugar mills owned by influential politicians.

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The cane crushing season is expected to start in the next two weeks and the mills have even refused to pay the last year’s SAP. The seven private sugar mills have announced that they will not pay a single rupee more than the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) of Rs 255 per quintal of cane. They say if the government insists on giving SAP to the growers, it would itself have to pay the differential price between FRP and the SAP (Rs 55 per quintal), as was done three years ago.

The mills have still not cleared dues to farmers for cane crushed in 2017-18. Together, these mills owe Rs 227.31 crore to the growers with Phagwara-based mill, owned by Akali Dal leader Jarnail Singh Wahid, on the top (Rs 55.59 crore); followed by Mukerian mill, owned by UP politician DP Yadav, (Rs 55.38 crore) and the Buttar Sevian mill, owned by family of Congress MLA Rana Gurjit Singh, (Rs 41.69 crore).

The Kiri Afgana mill, which was in the eye of a storm after molasses leak in the Beas, too has dues worth Rs 40.73 crore pending towards cane growers. The only private mill that has cleared all its dues is the one owned by the Oswal group. The nine cooperative sugar mills have Rs 217.68 crore dues towards cane growers, which are being released in a time-bound manner.

The millers claim that with the sugar prices having fallen from Rs 3,600 per quintal earlier this year to Rs 3,000 per quintal and that they are in loss and can’t afford to clear the dues or buy cane at higher SAP. On the other hand, government officers insist that the retail sugar prices are between Rs 3,400 and Rs 3,500 per quintal. They allege that the private mills are trying to arm-twist the government since these have 70 per cent of the cane-crushing capacity.

However, with the state’s fiscal health remaining precarious, the government is unlikely to bear the differential price (between FRP and SAP). It has thus recommended that this year there be no increase in SAP. The recommendation has been sent by the Agriculture Department to the CMO.

It is recommended that cane growers get Rs 310 per quintal for early maturing variety; Rs 300 per quintal for mid variety; and Rs 295 per quintal for late maturing variety. A final decision on this is expected to be taken next week.

Source Tribune India