Farmers urge govt to set base price for sugarcane soon

Kathmandu, November 4

Though the crushing season of sugarcane will begin within one month, the government is yet to fix support price of sugarcane for the ongoing fiscal year.

As farmers and sugar mill operators are often unable to fix sugarcane price on mutual understanding, the government has been fixing the minimum price for sugarcane. However, the inability of the government to determine support price of sugarcane on time has been affecting cane farmers every year.

“Crushing of sugarcane usually begins from the beginning of December. However, the government has not initiated any groundwork to fix the price of sugarcane for the ongoing fiscal year,” said Kapil Muni Mainali, president of Sugarcane Producers’ Association of Nepal, adding that farmers are not in a position to harvest sugarcane without an assurance of scientific price for their produce.

The government last year had fixed the support price of sugarcane at Rs 536 per quintal after the crushing of sugarcane started. This trend of not fixing the support price prior to crushing of cane has been discouraging farmers towards sugarcane farming, as per Mainali.

“Sugarcane farmers in Nepal never get a logical price for their produce based on the actual production cost. Similarly, the difficulties in getting timely payment from sugar mills have been forcing cane farmers to quit their business,” he added.

As per farmers, though sugar mills this year have been issuing pending payments of farmers after the government started nabbing those delaying payments, different sugar mills still owe more than Rs 500 million to farmers.

There are 12 sugar mills operating in the country.

The Nepal Police last week had arrested industrialist Rakesh Agrawal, proprietor of Nawalparasi-based Indira Sugar and Agro Limited and Sarlahi-based Annapurna Sugar and General Industries, on the charge of deliberately withholding payment of over Rs 470 million to farmers who had supplied sugarcane to the two sugar mills.

Tej Prasad Subedi, spokesperson for the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development (MoALD), admits that the issue regarding fixing support price of sugarcane has not been discussed so far though the crushing season of sugarcane is approaching near. “The issue has been discussed with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies only at an informal level. Formal discussions on setting the price of sugarcane is yet to begin,” he said.

Citing that the price of sugarcane has to be fixed before the crushing season starts, officials at MoALD have said discussions on the aforementioned issue will begin immediately after Tihar.

Sugarcane farming is carried out across more than 60,000 hectares of land across the country. However, farmers have claimed that sugarcane production is bound to fall in the ongoing fiscal year as farmers in recent years have been discouraged from sugarcane farming.