Gargi Parsai

“State Advised Price announced by it is irrationally high”

“Higher State Advised Price for cane builds up arrears”

States should follow Minimum Support Price announced by us: Centre

NEW DELHI: Union Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Friday put it squarely on the Mayawati government to clear sugarcane arrears to the tune of Rs. 1,000 crore in Uttar Pradesh. The total arrears stood at Rs. 2,600 crore at the close of the 2006-07 season.

“If the State government has announced a State Advised Price [of Rs. 125 a quintal against the statutory minimum price of Rs. 83.50 fixed by the Centre], it should implement it,” Mr. Pawar told journalists on the sidelines of the 73rd Annual General Meeting of the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA). He described the State Advised Price as “irrationally high,” whereas farmers’ organisations said the Central government’s price was “not remunerative.”

Asked about the standing sugarcane crop in the State, which had delayed sowing of rabi wheat and hit the livelihood of farmers, Mr. Pawar said: “We have recently assessed the situation of wheat acreage. The situation is normal. ”

It might be emphasised that despite a Supreme Court order upholding the powers of State governments to announce the State Advised Price for sugarcane, the Centre is impressing upon State governments to follow only the Minimum Support Price declared by it. The Union government’s stand is that the higher State Advised Price for cane builds up arrears which the sugar factories are unable to pay to farmers, especially in view of the high production of sugar.

Mr. Pawar held a meeting of Ministers from sugarcane-growing States in October for “rationalisation of sugarcane pricing.” The industry wants the sugarcane price linked to the sugar price.

On the other hand, the farmers’ organisations earlier this week suffered a set-back after the Allahabad High Court quashed the State Advised Price of Rs. 125 a quintal in Uttar Pradesh and asked the State to come up with guidelines for setting the State price. The Mayawati government said it would appeal against this order.

The order means that the sugar factories in the State would not have to pay up the arrears due to the farmers for 2006-07 amounting to nearly Rs. 1,000 crore. This is a significant development with far-reaching consequences, especially in a year when the farmers are delaying sowing of wheat in the largest State in the country and the government is already importing wheat.