Sugarcane farmers demand clearance of dues
KATHMANDU, NOVEMBER 10
While sugarcane farmers are seeking government support to recoup their dues from sugar mills, the mismatch in the outstanding amount as per the government’s and farmers’ calculations could complicate the matter.
As per Rakesh Mishra, patron of the Sugarcane Farmers Struggle Committee, at least 6,000 sugarcane farmers have not received Rs 360 million — Rs 300 million from Annapurna Sugar and General Industries for the past five years and Rs 60 million from Mahalaxmi Sugar Mill for the last two years — in Sarlahi district alone. He further informed that the total outstanding amount that farmers across the country need to receive is a whopping Rs 1.2 billion.
On the other hand, Urmila KC, undersecretary and assistant spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, said that a majority of sugar mills have already released payments to the farmers.
“Farmers have not received payments from four sugar mills — Annapurna Sugar and General Industries (Rs 330 million) of Sarlahi, Lumbini Sugar Mill (Rs 84.1 million) of Nawalparasi, Indira Sugar and Agro Industries (Rs 47 million) of Nawalparasi and Sri Ram Sugar Mills (Rs 350 million including payments of staff) of Rautahat,” she said. Among them, Sri Ram Sugar Mills has made a commitment to clear the dues by selling the land on which the factory is based, as per KC.
“We have requested the Ministry of Home Affairs to issue instructions to the concerned District Administration Offices to facilitate in collecting the payment worth Rs 790 million from the four sugar mills as soon as possible,” she informed, adding, “Similarly, initiatives are being taken to hold meetings with the owners of those mills that have still not made the payments.”
Meanwhile, Kapil Muni Mainali, president of Nepal Sugar Producers Federation, also estimates that there is around Rs 800 million in total remaining to be paid to cane farmers by the sugar mills.
Despite the mismatch in the outstanding amount as per the government’s estimation and farmers’ calculation, one thing is clear that sugarcane farmers have been deprived of getting millions of their outstanding amount from the sugar mills for the past many years.
Mishra shared that since the sugarcane farmers have been facing problems in receiving their due payments, most of them have started growing other crops. “Sarlahi alone used to yield 3.5 to five million quintals of sugarcane in previous years but it is likely to decrease to two million quintals this year,” he mentioned. He further shared that the government’s vision of prosperous Nepal is meaningless as it has not been able to solve the problems of farmers because agriculture is the foundation of a prosperous Nepal.
Meanwhile, Sashi Kant Agrawal, president of Nepal Sugar Mills Association, stated that some of the sugar mills have not been paying the sugarcane farmers for the past many years and farmers should receive their payments.
He said domestic sugar mills have not been able to pay farmers as they have been facing heavy losses due to huge import of cheap sugar from India and Pakistan around three years back. “However, payments must be made to farmers regardless of the loss. The government has to call the industrialists and make them commit to pay the farmers by giving them a certain time limit and last warning.”
He added, “The government had asked the industrialists to make payments earlier too but neither the government could take strict action against the industrialists nor have the industrialists implemented the agreement.”
Following the government’s failure to fulfil its commitment to clear the dues of sugarcane farmers within January 21 as per the agreement signed on January 3, a team of sugarcane farmers from Sugarcane Farmers Struggle Committee had visited the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Lekhraj Bhatt on Sunday.
The team handed over a memorandum to the minister asking him to implement the pact signed on January 3 and demanded that their outstanding payments be cleared within Chhath, failing which they will start a protest from December 12.
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