‘If committee’s recommendations were accepted, co-operative sugar mills might have to be closed down’

A number of farmers’ bodies have opposed the recommendations of the Rangarajan Committee on sugar decontrol.

Aiyilai Siva Suriyan, district secretary of Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam, said in a statement that the committee’s recommendations would inflict incalculable harm on farmers, cooperative sugar mills, and consumers.

He pointed out that the committee had recommended removal of levy sugar system and restriction on supply to mills within a specific region. Besides, it has suggested that there need not be any specification of 15 km distance between mills. It also said the restriction on transport of ethanol to other States should be removed. The system of releasing sugar for domestic consumption once every three months may be discontinued, it has recommended.

This report is likely to be implemented from January next. Mr.Siva Suriyan contended that if these recommendations were accepted, co-operative sugar mills might have to be closed down.

Therku Matrum Vadakku Ayyan Vaikal Pasanadharar Sangham convener N.Veerasekaran has lambasted the Committee as having “betrayed” farmers and “favoured” the private sector.

He contended that sugarcane should not be viewed only as “sugar” but its by-products too should be taken into consideration.

Mills are making money not only from sugar but also from its by-products including ethanol, methanol, electricity, organic manure and paper. “It is really disturbing to note that the committee has shed tears for these mills,” he added.

He estimated that mills which procure sugarcane at Rs.1, 500 a tonne are making a profit of Rs.25, 000. Despite such a profit, it is invidious on their part to hesitate to give 10 per cent of production to public distribution system. The committee has accepted their point of view.

Such a recommendation would not only hit the economy but also the common man, he asserted. And the view of the committee that the volume of sugar meant for the levy could be sold at the open market rate is a “telling testimony” of how the report is likely to impact the common man.

He apprehended that even the price of tea could shoot up from Rs.6 a cup to Rs.10 if the price of sugar were to go up.

Mr.Veerasekaran pleaded that “dying co-operative mills” should be rejuvenated through technology infusion, additional funds, skill training of workers, and efficient management.

Besides, though it may not be possible to fix a remunerative price for sugarcane, farmers should be given at least break-even price which will give an impetus to the sector.

As sugar industry comes within the ambit of “food security”, it would not be proper to accord total freedom to the industry on a par with other industries, he pleaded.

“Either the recommendations of the committee should not be implemented or all the frontline farmers’ bodies should be consulted before its implementation,” he pleaded.