The sugarcane farmers in Maharashtra are facing great hardship due to non-payment of dues by the sugar mills. According to the 1966 Sugar control order of the Maharashtra government, mills are required to pay the fair and remunerative prices (FRP) to the sugarcane farmers from whom they obtain their sugarcane supplies within 14 days. Failing this payment mills could lose their assets. The FRP is decided each year by the Central government and stands at Rs. 2,200 per tonne this year. 

Data from Maharashtra Sugar commissioner shows that many farmers have not been paid FRP for more than 6 months. There are 193 sugar mills in Maharashtra and almost 90% (173 mills) have not paid FRP. The FRP arrears stood at Rs. 2995 crores at the end of August this year. Government has not taken any action against the sugar mill owners for recovery of this amount while the farmers are is in extremely difficult situation. According to the admission of state sugar commissioner, Shri Vinay Sharma recovery actions have been started against only nine mills who together owe Rs. 18 crore to the farmers, which is not even 1% of the total amount due. 

Sugar mill owners, most of who are politicians in Congress party, BJP and Nationalist Congress party, are saying that they are not able to pay because the FRP has been set too high in relation to the sugar prices in the market. Most of them are waiting for the state government to give them soft credit (read interest free loans) and subsidies before they will pay the farmers (See Hindustan Times article by Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava on 28 Sep 2015, entitled, "Maharashtra’s sugar-baron politicos owe farmers crores"). In the meantime, farmers are driven to desperation and are forced to hold protests. There have also been unprecedented number of agricultural clashes this year. The apathy of the Maharashtra government to the plight of farmers is glaring. 

Pankaja Munde, BJP, state rural development minister who owes Rs 27.53 crore is reported to have said, "We will be clearing the dues by September 30 from the soft loan sanctioned by the government."

Ajit Pawar, NCP, MLA and former deputy chief minister who owes Rs 139.75 crore has reported to have commented, "Along with the soft loan, the government should provide subsidy to mills to clear dues."

Jayant Patil, NCP, MLA and former rural development and finance minister who owes Rs 86.08 crore, has reported to have commented, "The gap in the FRP and current sugar prices should be compensated by the government. Farmers should grow less to prevent losses."

Dileep Walse Patil, NCP, MLA and former assembly speaker who owes Rs 28.11 crore, has commented, "We will clear the dues by this month-end with the soft loan from the government."

Babanrao Pachpute, BJP, former Minister of forest who owes Rs 37.64 crore has reported to have said, “Soft loan is causing the delay. By Sep 30 we will pay the dues.”

by Prof. Bharat Seth

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