The price of sugarcane continues to agitate farmers and millers in parts of the country even as the Central government mulls over the financial package for factory owners to facilitate crushing for the season. Entering the fray, political leaders on Friday urged the Central government to intervene quickly.

Reports of a farmer committing suicide in Uttar Pradesh has only deepened the crisis with Tikait-led Bhartiya Kisan Union declaring that it will picket sugar mills from Saturday and “lift” sugar from factories in lieu of the unpaid arrears to farmers. Millers in U.P. owe up to Rs. 2400 crore to farmers from last year.

Urging the government to take a quick decision, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh said import of raw sugar must stop and export of sugar must start. “At prevailing prices, the sugar industry is not sustainable. The government must act quickly and decisively,” Mr. Singh said on Twitter.

Taking exception to sugar millers saying they will not begin crushing unless the price of sugar rises and they are given subsidy for export, Janata Dal (U) leader K.C. Tyagi said if mills do not start operations by December 4, then the government should take over and start operations.

On Thursday, BJP President Rajnath Singh sought “compensation” for farmers for the standing crop in fields and non-payment of arrears.

Farmers are demanding a hike of Rs. 40 per quintal over last year’s cane price of Rs. 280 per quintal but millers are willing to give only Rs. 225 per quintal as, they say, they are saddled with surplus stocks and decline in sugar price in the open market.

According to the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA), of 400 mills, only 50 per cent have started crushing so far because of uncertainty over cane price in U.P. and Karnataka.

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