AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa on Tuesday urged Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to increase the Fair and Remunerative Price of sugarcane substantially.

She also wanted him to impress upon the DMK government to increase its support price for sugarcane procurement so that the price was at least Rs. 2,500 per tonne.

“Otherwise sugarcane production will come to a virtual halt, sugarcane cultivators will be driven to the brink and the State will face a major deficit in sugar, forcing it to go in for large-scale import,” she said in her letter to Mr. Pawar.

The letter submitted by her party MPs said import of sugar would push up the price of sugar far beyond the reach of the common man.

Accusing the DMK government of being anti-people and non-performing, she urged the Centre to “liberate Tamil Nadu and its people.”

Earlier in the day she joined issue with Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi over State Advised Price (SAP) given to sugarcane farmers and sugar production in the State. She said though the DMK government had announced Rs. 359.80 over the Statutory Minimum Price (SMP), actually it was giving only Rs 139.

According to her, the DMK government had fixed Rs. 1,437.40 per tonne of sugarcane as SAP, which included Rs. 359.80 and the Statutory Minimum Price (SMP) of Rs. 1,077.60. This was announced through an order on September 24, 2009.

Ms. Jayalalithaa’s argument was that the government should have fixed Rs. 1,658.20 as procurement price per tonne since the Centre had increased the Fair and Remunerative Price to Rs. 1,298.40.

“This goes to show the State government is providing only Rs. 139, which is Rs. 80 less than what was given by me,” she said.

As regards the Chief Minister’s accusations that she had conveniently covered up low sugar production in Tamil Nadu – 9.20 lakh tonnes in 2003-04 and 11.09 lakh tonnes 2004-05, she said the previous DMK regime between 1996 and 2001 had a bearing on sugar production. Subsequently, the production increased due to the efforts taken by her government. It touched 21.38 lakh tonnes in 2005-06 and 25.39 lakh tonnes in 2006-07. It once again came down during the DMK regime, she said.

“In 2007-08, the production came down to 21.41 lakh tonnes and it further dipped to 16.18 lakh tonnes in 2008-09,” she said.

Agriculture Minister Veerapandi Arumugam said though Ms Jayalalithaa announced Rs. 219, she never implemented her announcement.

He explained that when the State government increased the price to 359.80 it did not expect the Centre would increase the Fair and Remunerative Price.

Mr. Arumugam also rejected her argument that the previous DMK government was responsible for the poor sugar production during the AIADMK regime.