“Given the current price of sugar, you should be able to give a good price to farmers [for sugar cane],” Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar told Uttar Pradesh sugar mill owners here on Tuesday.

Mr. Pawar met them to end their stand-off with farmers over the price for this sugar season. “I had a meeting with the UP Sugar Mills Association. I appealed to them to hold discussions with farmers and resolve the issue. We are trying to see to it that crushing operation starts in Uttar Pradesh as early as possible,” he told journalists after the meeting, which was attended, among others, by 12 millers, Food Secretary Alka Sirohi and Joint Secretary N. Sanyal.

Mr. Pawar said the millers assured him that they would discuss the issue with farmers, with an open mind, this week. “We told them that given the good price they were getting for sugar, they should not upset farmers.”

Farmers in the western parts of the State have been demanding Rs.280 a quintal, against the State Advised Price of Rs.162.50-Rs.170 for cane of various qualities. On the other hand, the Centre has announced a Fair and Remunerative Price of Rs.129.85 a quintal, linked to a 9.5 per cent recovery. The agitation has delayed crushing and forced the government to ban raw sugar supplies.

Sources said the Uttar Pradesh millers were likely to pay more than the State Advised Price to resolve the issue at the earliest. Mr. Pawar said that thanks to the rising sugar price, millers in the country were expected to pay the growers more than the Fair and Remunerative Price. However, he urged the mill owners of Uttar Pradesh, the second largest producer, to pay a “fair price.”

Mr. Pawar also proposed to write to the State governments not to block the movement of raw sugar. Any delay in crushing and a ban on the movement of raw sugar would fuel shortage, he said. Already the sugar price has shot up to Rs. 35 a kg in Delhi. Once crushing begins in Uttar Pradesh the price would dip, he said.

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