Madhes stir taking toll on sugarcane farmers

Rautahat, November 9

Sugarcane farmers in Rautahat have been selling their produce at a loss, thanks to the protracted general strikes and failure of Rautahat-based Shree Ram Sugar Mills to make payment to farmers for for the last two years.

As opposed to last year’s Rs 481 per quintal sugarcane, farmers are compelled to sell their produce at Rs 200 per quintal to crusher industries involved in making jaggery. Shree Ram Sugar Mills owes Rs 900 million to the farmers.

The farmers complained that they had to sell their produce to the crusher industries in order to pay the debt that they had taken to grow sugarcane.

Taking advantage of the farmers’ plight, various jaggery factories in Garuda, Malahi, Sangrampur and Samanpur have been procuring sugarcane at the reduced rate of Rs 200 to Rs 250 per quintal.

Sugarcane farmer Ramekwal Sah from Sangrampur said the mill had stopped paying them the day the agitation kicked off in the plains. “Bandh and blockade has made our lives difficult. Thus, we have no option but to sell our produce to the jaggery factories at low prices,” Sah said.

Sugarcane Producers’ Association Chairman Ashok Yadav said the mill owed the farmers Rs 900 million. Yadav said the mill had stopped paying the farmers citing the ongoing agitation in the Tarai.

Diwakar Golchha, proprietor of Shree Ram Sugar Mills, said they could not pay the farmers as the banks and financial institutions in the Tarai remain closed due to the ongoing Madhes agitation. “We will not be able to pay the farmers until the banks reopen,” he said.

Rajesh Chaudhary, a farmer from Gangapipara, the prolonged agitation in the Tarai had made it difficult for them to transport their produce to markets.