The Federation of Sugarcane Producers Associations (Andhra Pradesh) has demanded that the State government conduct a tripartite meeting with sugarcane producers and the sugar factories to enable them to ventilate their grievances.

Secretary of the federation N.V.S. Sharma told The Hindu that the support price being paid to the sugarcane growers was far from remunerative. On top of this some factories were claiming that they were paying more than the support price announced by the government.

Mr. Sharma said that incentives paid to farmers to encourage them to continue cultivation of sugarcane should not be used for calculating support price. The growers had to spend between Rs.1.25 lakh and Rs.1.5 lakh an acre to raise sugarcane. Mr. Sharma said that earlier sugar was considered the main product and Molasses, bagasse and filter cake as by-products.

By-products

The earnings of sugar factories and the government from the so-called by-products were more than that of what they were earning from the sugar, Mr. Sharma said. Molasses that was earlier released as waste was now being used for alcohol production.

The demand for alcohol and the profits are known to all, he said. The filter cake was being sold at a very high rate as fertilizer for potted plants in cities with fancy packing. Consumers who have good purchasing power were buying these packets without second thought.

The sugarcane growers were not being given a share in these profits, Mr. Sharma added.

He said that sugar factories tend to boast about payment of subsidy for mechanisation, but the experience of the growers with mechanisation was bad. One farmer had to give away half the support price for harvesting when a factory failed to provide a machine for harvesting the crop. The cost of labour was growing day by day.

Factories were still in production even though the production of sugarcane was down by 50 per cent. If they were making losses why were they continuing even in these adverse conditions, Mr. Sharma asked.

The factories were not aware of the danger they were facing.

The day farmers find that sugarcane cultivation was no more remunerative, they would shift to other crops and the factories would have to shut down, he observed.