Maharashtra: Sangli, Kolhapur mills brace for rough start to crushing season

Parthasarathi Biswas
The sugar commissioner’s office has indicated that the crushing will start from November 25 with the governor presiding over a meeting to seal the date on November 19. (Representational Image)

MILLS IN the sugar bowl districts of Sangli and Kolhapur are bracing for a rough start to the sugarcane crushing season 2019-20 as the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana has indicated a protest if their demands are not met. A meeting held in Kolhapur on Sunday proved inconclusive as the farmer’s union refused to allow for the payment of the fair and remunerative price (FRP) in three instalments. Maharashtra’s cane crushing season is expected to start on November 25 — making it the most delayed start ever.

The sugar commissioner’s office has indicated that the crushing will start from November 25 with the governor presiding over a meeting to seal the date on November 19. Most millers had earlier reacted favourably to delayed crushing as it will allow cane in southern Maharashtra as well as Marathwada to recover from the stress of flood and drought. The Sanghatana had earlier asked mills to not start operations till November 23, when they will be holding their annual Oosh Parishad. Sanghatana founder and former MP Raju Shetti was to place their demand for payment in the parishad.

Jalinder Patil, the Sanghatana leader who attended the meeting on Sunday, said the millers had talked about paying FRP in three instalments.

“Cane growers have suffered immensely during the floods and this proposition is not acceptable to us,” he said. Patil added that mills, which will start or disagree with the Sanghatana’s demand, will not be allowed to start operations. While the crushing season is yet to start, mills have started preparations by issuing harvesting plans to farmers and cane harvesters. Accordingly, some mills have also started sending out their harvesters to farmer’s fields.

Millers who attended the meeting said it was not possible for them to pay the full FRP at one go. “Given the condition of the sugar market and the finances available with us, it will be difficult to pay the FRP at one go,” said a cooperative miller, on condition of anonymity. This year, millers said, the Sanghatana will likely have a tough time convincing farmers to delay their harvesting as most farmers had reported poor growth of their standing cane crop. Patil, however, said he was confident that farmers will not allow their cane to be harvested in a hurry. “From Monday we, will not allow harvesters to get into the fields,” he added.