NEW DELHI

‘Non-payment of arrears forced farmers to quit cane’

Gargi Parsai

1 million tonne-cap on import of refined sugar may go



‘States should launch de-hoarding operations’

‘Every government agency must focus on measures for drought mitigation’



NEW DELHI: Non-payment of sugarcane arrears to farmers in the last two seasons made them shift to other crops, whose minimum support price was raised. Lower acreage, productivity, and sucrose content in cane due to a deficient monsoon in the south led to a fall in recovery rates and diversion of the area under sugarcane in the current season.

These were some of the reasons for the rising sugar prices, discussed by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, here on Monday. The meeting reviewed the drou-ght situation and price rise.

The occasion was also an opportunity for Sharad Pawar — who has come in for criticism for the rising prices of sugar and pulses — to put across to his Cabinet colleagues the measures taken by his Food, Consumer Affairs, and Agriculture Ministry to contain prices.

Mr. Pawar has separately written to Union Ministers seeking their cooperation in tackling the drought in 278 districts in 11 States, as the monsoon has been deficient by 24 per cent.

He urged MPs to use funds under the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS).

According to sources, the in-principle decisions taken on augmenting the availability of sugar and pulses during the coming two months of festival season would be announced by the empowered Group of Ministers on Food, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Besides enhancing levy distribution under the Public Distribution System from 10 to 30 per cent, there is a likelihood of the removal of the one million tonne-cap on import of refined sugar.

Official sources said the meeting emphasised the need for States enforcing stock limits, carrying out de-hoarding operations, and invoking the Essential Commodities Act and the Prevention of Black Marketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act.

The CCEA stressed the need for every government agency to focus on measures that could be adopted for drought mitigation, maximising kharif production from standing crops, and preparation for additional production and enhanced productivity in the rabi crop. It referred to the Action Plan jointly adopted by the Centre and the States as a response to the situation.

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