Govt to make mill owners pay farmers’ dues

Kathmandu, January 1

The government has expressed its commitment to ensure that farmers get their outstanding dues from sugar mills by the third week of January.

During a meeting between the government and cane farmers held here today at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, Industry Minister Lekhraj Bhatta said the government would make sugar mills pay the pending dues of cane farmers ‘at any cost’.

Moreover, Bhatta assured cane farmers that they would get 80 per cent of their outstanding dues from sugar mill operators within the next 10 days.

“The government is serious about resolving the problem of delayed payment being faced by cane farmers. We’ll make mill operators pay farmers as soon as possible,” said Bhatta.

He told farmers at the meeting that mill operators had committed to clearing all dues to farmers by the third week of January.

“If mill operators don’t clear farmers’ dues by then, the government will form a probe committee and initiate legal action against sugar mill operators who are intentionally not clearing the payment to farmers,” he added.

On Monday, the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, on the recommendation of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, had urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to take action against sugar mill operators who had not cleared payments to cane farmers since long.

Yesterday, the MoHA had directed Nepal Police to arrest a sugar mill operator who was absconding without clearing a large amount he allegedly owed to sugarcane farmers.

Bhatta assured farmers that, if necessary, the government would even liquidate properties of mill owners and issue payment to farmers. “The government has many options to make sugar mill operators pay farmers and will use them in time, if needed,” he added.

The MoHA has directed police to find the whereabouts of Rakesh Kumar Agrawal, the operator of Annapurna Sugar and General Industries Pvt Ltd and Indira Sugar and Agro Industries Pvt Ltd, and present him at the Industrial and Investment Promotion Division of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies at the earliest.

Farmers claim that sugar mills owe them almost Rs 1.5 billion. Hundreds of cane farmers from across the country are in the capital and have been protesting against sugar mills and their operators.

“Sugar mills have not been clearing dues to farmers since long. Few sugar mill operators who owe millions of rupees are even reluctant to meet or even talk to farmers,” said Kapil Muni Mainali, president of Nepal Sugarcane Producers Federation.