Sugarcane growers in the region are pinning their hopes on the Friday’s meeting with the Sugarcane Control Board and representatives of the sugar industry to resolve their pending issues.
The farmers have sought a say in the reconstitution of the board and want greater representation. Scores of farmers belonging to the Karnataka Rajya Kabbu Belegarara Sangha staged a demonstration in the city on Wednesday, calling for an early meeting with the authorities in support of their demands which include fixing procurement price based on sugar recovery per tonne and the profit earned by the sugar factory from sugarcane byproducts.
Kurubur Shanthakumar, president of the sangha, pointed out that their demands, including clearing arrears due to farmers, would not be met unless the board was reconstituted. “The board members are drawn from among bureaucrats, politicians, Ministers and representatives of the sugar industry. Any discussions pertaining to our demands regarding clearing of arrears have to be approved by the board and there is a genuine fear among farmers that the board may not approve it. Hence we strongly feel that farmers should not have a token presence but a greater say in the affairs concerning the sugarcane growers,” he added.
Taking exception to the support price of Rs. 2,400 a tonne (for Mandya district) fixed by the State government, Mr. Shanthakumar said minimum support price was yet to be fixed for the entire State and even the price fixed for Mandya was lower than the support price of Rs. 2,530 a tonne fixed by the Centre.
Citing the example of Gandevi Sugar Factor under the cooperative sector in Gujarat, Mr. Shanthakumar said the management had paid Rs. 3,430 a tonne this year in addition to Rs. 455 a tonne towards cutting and transportation charges for farmers. “The State should send a delegation to study that model and implement the same here,” he added.
“The cost of cultivating 1 tonne of sugarcane was Rs. 3,100 and the minimum support price cannot be less than the input cost. If the State does not bail out the growers, the agricultural sector will be in doldrums as farmers will quit cultivation for alternative jobs in the construction industry,” Mr. Shanthakumar cautioned.
Deputy Commissioner C. Shikha, who met the agitating farmers, heard their grievances and convened the meeting on Friday.