Staff Reporter

Farmers and mill owners stick to their respective stand

Bangalore: The stalemate over pricing of sugarcane in North West Karnataka continues following the failure of talks between the sugarcane growers and the sugar mills owners over the fixation of prices, in Bangalore on Wednesday.

The farmers announced that they would be transporting their sugarcane to mills in Maharashtra.

The State is likely to lose a couple of hundred crore of rupees if the farmers decide to stick to their stand.

At a meeting chaired by Deputy Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa, both the parties were adamant on their stand despite concessions offered by Mr. Yediyurappa. While the farmers demanded Rs. 1,200 per tonne of sugarcane, the representatives of sugar mills were willing to pay Rs. 1,150 per tonne of sugarcane in two instalments. The meeting, which lasted over four hours at Krishna, the official residence of the Chief Minister, Mr. Yediyurappa, who also holds the Finance portfolio, met both the parties together and when the talks did not make any headway, he met them individually. The farmers' representatives from Belgaum, Bijapur and Bagalkot districts and the members of the South Indian Sugar Mills Association (Karnataka) were present.

Addressing presspersons, Mr. Yediyurappa said the Government was ready to implement the Maharashtra model of taxation on sugarcane purchase.

The Government was ready to reduce the Cane Purchase Tax by nearly 50 per cent. He said, "The Government is willing to lose around Rs. 100 crore by the way of reduction in taxes."

Mr. Yediyurappa said he had promised to reduce the Cane Purchase Tax from the prevailing Rs. 65 to Rs. 35. The farmers did not agree with the formula, he added.

Sugar Minister Ravindranath said that the sugar mills had agreed to pay Rs. 1,150 per tonne of sugarcane in two instalments.

While the first instalment of Rs. 1,000 would be paid to the farmers initially, Rs. 150 would be paid as second instalment during April 2007 when the crushing season ended, he added.

When his attention was drawn to the losses to the exchequer, he said the State might stand to lose around Rs. 300 crore if the farmers decided to transport the sugarcane to Maharashtra. Terming the talks with the sugar mills owners as a failure, president of the Raitha Hitarakshana Samithi Dada Patil said that when the cost of farm inputs had increased, the owners of sugar mills in the State were unwilling to pay more.