In a move aimed at taking the sting out of Rashtriya Lok Dal's agitation of sugarcane farmers in Western Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, the mill owners have announced a fresh incentive of Rs.10 per quintal on the procurement price of cane by private sugar mills.

The decision was finalised at a meeting of the Uttar Pradesh Sugar Mills Association, a branch of Indian Sugar Mills Association, in New Delhi on Tuesday. It was communicated to the Uttar Pradesh Government on Wednesday.

The fresh incentive is also seen as a method to lure the farmers in supplying sugarcane to the mills as reports have said that the growers, who have been demanding a price of Rs. 280 per quintal, have refused to supply their produce until given the price demanded.

Having earlier announced an incentive of Rs. 15 per quintal, the total amount of incentive announced by the mill owners over and above the State Advised Price (SAP) of the UP Government now is Rs.25 per quintal. Following the latest move, the growers were now assured a price of Rs.195 per quintal for early maturing varieties of cane, Rs. 190 per quintal for general varieties and Rs. 187.50 for rejected varieties. The SAP for the 2009-10 crushing season has been fixed at Rs. 170, Rs. 165 and Rs. 162.50 per quintal for the three varieties of cane.

The sugar mill owners' decision follows the directives issued by the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mayawati to the divisional commissioners and district magistrates to assure that remunerative price for their produce was given to the cane farmers, albeit only after taking into consideration the sugar prices. Ms. Mayawati said at Press conference in Lucknow on Wednesday that the State Government had announced a SAP of Rs. 170, Rs.165 and Rs. 162.50 per quintal on the three varieties of sugarcane.

Ms. Mayawati said the officials have been directed to take appropriate steps to ensure that the farmers are paid more in the form of incentives by the mill owners, particularly in the cane surplus areas of Western Uttar Pradesh. The Chief Minister said cane crushing operations have commenced in almost all the mills in Meerut and Saharanpur divisions.

It is learnt that the Sugar Mill Owners Association's move to increase the amount of incentive was taken at the behest of the State officials entrusted with the task considering that the Government has indicated that there would be no further increase in the SAP. Sources said the State Cane Commissioner, Sudhir Bobade was camping in Meerut to oversee the running of sugar mills and the payment of cane purchase price to the farmers.

After the withdrawal of the Central ordinance pertaining to the fair and remunerative price (FRP) of cane, the farmers had threatened to intensify their agitation in Uttar Pradesh where they have demanded a price of Rs. 280 per quintal. While the RLD president, Ajit Singh has given a call for bandh and "chakka jam" in Western U.P. on Thursday, the Bhartiya Kisan Union of Mahendra Singh Tikait has threatened to hold dharna and demonstrations on the price issue on December 1.

Meanwhile, sources in the sugar industry said that almost all the mills had commenced crushing of cane. There are 92 private sugar mills in the State.