Revival will need Rs. 60 cr. Dues will be paid after poll results: Chairman

The future of Dakshina Kannada Sahakari Sakkare Karkhane (also called Brahmavar Cooperative Sugar Factory) is likely to be decided at the end of this month.

The factory was established on the premise that Varahi Irrigation Project, when commissioned, would provide irrigation to a minimum of 12,000 acres of land in Udupi district, thereby helping in the production of about 2.5 lakh tonnes of sugarcane. This cane would be supplied to the factory.

The foundation stone for the factory, located on 110 acreson the National Highway in Brahmavar, and Varahi Irrigation Project was laid at the same time in 1980; while the factory began functioning in 1985, the irrigation project is still under construction.

The factory — which stopped crushing cane in 2004 amid mounting losses — faced problems in settling the dues of the farmers and salaries to its workers.

The factory terminated the services of nearly 200 workers in 2006. After a gap of 10 years, the government released money to settle the dues, which were distributed to farmers and workers on February 8, this year.

“We have paid Rs. 1.83 crore of dues to the farmers and pending salaries amounting to Rs. 6.15 crore has been settled,” said M. Jayasheela Shetty, Chairman of the factory.

The factory still has to pay Rs. 4.56 crore to 82 cooperative societies in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts. “We will settle the matters with the cooperative societies after the results of the parliamentary elections. We will hold a meeting of elected representatives and farmers in Brahmavar or District Offices Complex in Udupi to decide the future of the factory by the end of this month,” Mr. Shetty said.

The options before the stakeholders of the factory are tough. The factory could be revived, privatised, sold or closed; the revival plan would require at least Rs. 60 crore.

“The farmers have an emotional attachment with the factory. They will not like the factory land to be given to anyone else. They want to save the factory, but lack the will power,” Mr. Shetty said.

Farm organisations have different views on revival of the factory, said B. Ramakrishna Sharma, president of Udupi Zilla Krishik Sangha. He said that the factory had paid the farmers only the principal amount. There was good potential for growing sugarcane in the district and it was fetching a good price, he said.

“The work on Varahi Irrigation Project is progressing. Farmers are ready to grow cane if they are paid in time. The revival of the factory will revive agriculture. We will fight to revive the factory,” Mr. Sharma said.

But B.V. Poojary, president of district unit of Bharatiya Kisan Sangha, said that the farmers had little inclination to grow sugarcane as they faced problems such as labour shortage, lack of irrigation facilities and constant destruction of their fields by wild animals. “If these three problems are addressed, there is future for the factory,” he said.

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