Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lift curbs on sugarcane movement, demand

Lift curbs on sugarcane movement, demand
21 Jan 2009, 0104 hrs IST, Jayaraj Sivan, TNN

CHENNAI: Sugarcane farmers in Tamil Nadu are demanding that the restrictions imposed on the movement of their produce within the state be lifted.

Tamil Nadu, like many other states, has been restricting the movement of sugarcane by creating a command area for each of its 37 sugar mills. Maharashtra is the only one allowing free movement of sugarcane within its territory. Restrictions are imposed to ensure that farmers who cultivate in a particular command area do not take their produce to another command area. This is aimed at ensuring full capacity utilization of every mill. To implement this, the commissioner of sugar issues periodical notifications.

As per a recent notification, even farmers who have not registered with sugar mills should first approach the mills to sell their produce. The mills can purchase them in order to achieve 100% capacity utilization of the factories.

In case the mills do not need the sugarcane produced by farmers, they are authorised to issue a no-objection certificate (NOC) to move the commodity out of their command area (jurisdictional boundary stipulated by the government) to another mill. But the NOC has to be issued within 14 days of the farmer expressing his desire to supply the produce to the factory. However, if the mills do not accept the yield and also do not issue the NOC within the stipulated 14 days, then the farmer has to seek the intervention of the commissioner of sugar to obtain the NOC from the mill.

Such a regulation will have a catastrophic effect on sugarcane farmers in the state, noted S Kannaiyan, organizing secretary, Tamil Nadu Farmers' Association. He told TOI: "In Erode district, one of the largest producers of sugarcane in the state, about 17,000 farmers who cultivate the crop in as many acres supply their produce to indigenous crushers, who produce country-made sugar. It makes better economic sense too to sell to such cottage industries, because they pay more than what sugar mills give. By asking every farmer to sell to sugar mills, the government is strangulating them."

T Subbu, a farmer in Erode, said, "Many sugar mills do not accept the produce in time. Selling the yield to outside market is the only option left under such circumstance. We want the government to withdraw restrictions on movement of sugarcane as otherwise it will spell doom for the farmers and more people will give up cultivation."

Senior advocate NGR Prasad, who has handled batches of cases relating to the issue, said the Sugarcane Control Order empowered the authorities to impose such conditions on farmers in order to ensure that the mill concerned is not starved of sugarcane.

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