THE TIMES OF INDIA
Fall in crop area to hit sugar
21 Jan 2009, 0114 hrs IST, Jayaraj Sivan, TNN
CHENNAI: Sugar production in Tamil Nadu is likely to fall by a whopping two lakh tonnes in the current season October 2008 to September 2009
going by the estimate of the office of the commissioner of sugar.
Sugarcane cultivation, which is normally carried out in more than six lakh acres across the state, has fallen by 60,000 acres this year. Farmers in Tamil Nadu
are aggrieved that when their counterparts in Gujarat, Orissa and several other states get more than Rs 1,500 per tonne for sugarcane, they are forced to sell their crop at Rs 1,050 per tonne - the state advisory price (SAP) fixed by the government. Also, while the cooperative mills buy sugarcane at SAP, private mills are not bound by this price. They need to pay only the statutory minimum price (SMP) of Rs 811.8 per tonne fixed by the central government.
It is a different matter that most private mills pay farmers more than the SAP up to Rs 1,270 per tonne to encourage them to continue cultivating sugarcane. Over the years, there has been a steady fall in the number of farmers taking to this crop, said S Kannaiyan, organizing secretary of Tamil Nadu Farmers' Association.
On the ways to deal with the problems that plague this sector, Kannaiyan said, "To make sugarcane cultivation economically viable, farmers should be paid at least Rs 1,500 per tonne. Next, the mills should accept the yield in the 11th month of cultivation, when it gains maximum weight. And finally, the mills should make payments the moment they receive the produce. In Tamil Nadu, many mills delay the procurement by five to six months. Hence, farmers are not able to harvest and replant in time. Also, some mills delay payments. There are mills which owe farmers up to Rs 40 crore. Because of all these, many farmers have given up cultivating sugarcane."
Atulya Misra, commissioner of sugar, said, "We expect a fall in sugar production this year because sugarcane yield is likely to fall from last year's 223 lakh tonnes to 183 lakh tonnes in the current season. In the previous years, we used to get complaints from farmers that sugar mills were delaying accepting their produce. But we do not foresee that problem this year, primarily because sugar mills will be struggling to achieve their full capacity production owing to short-supply of sugarcane."
On the delay in payment by some private mills, Misra said, "As regards private mills, we can only ensure that they pay the SMP. If they do not make the payment within 14 days of accepting sugarcane, we can take action against them. We do not get any such complaint. But if any mill offers farmers a price higher than the SMP, and delays payment of the differential price what is promised over and above the SMP - we do not have powers to recover that."