Announce sugarcane price immediately, farmers tell Govt.

VELLORE, FEB. 15. A plea to the State Government to announce immediately the price of sugarcane has been made by farmers while participating in a grievances day meeting here on Friday.

The farmers said the Government ought to have announced the State-advised price before December 31 itself, but it had not so far announced, thus depriving the farmers of a reasonable price for the sugarcane supplied by them to the cooperative sugar mills in Vellore district.

The farmers would have to be content with the Rs. 708 per tonne announced by the Centre. They also expressed concern about the non-payment of outstanding arrears to the farmers who supplied cane to the mills.

Kanniah Naidu, president of the Vellore Cooperative Sugar Mills Farmers Association, said the sugar mills owed dues to the tune of about Rs. 25 crores to the farmers.

He urged the mills to take early steps to pay the arrears, and wanted the Collector to get the Tamil Nadu Sugar Federation to release the subsidy provided by a central financial organisation to the cooperative sugar mills in order to enable them to pay the arrears.

He wanted a meeting of special officers of the three cooperative sugar mills in Vellore district and representatives of farmers' associations to be convened by the Collector to thrash out the issues concerning the sugarcane farmers.

The Collector, A.C. Mohandoss, who presided, said that he would convene such a meeting in the second week of March.

Mr. Naidu said that farmers suffered a serious loss on account of the delayed issuing of cutting orders.

Normally, the farmers would gain only if the cutting orders were issued on the completion of 12 months after planting. But cutting orders were being issued in the 13th or 14th month leading to losses to farmers. The loss was not compensated by the mills, he said.

The farmers pleaded for the diversification in the activities of the cooperative sugar mills into areas like manufacture of petrol and liquor in order to improve their financial viability.

They pointed out that the by-product of molasses available in cooperative sugar mills had not so far been profitably utilised by the sugar mills.

A farmer of Vettuvanam complained of difficulty faced by women's associations in the area in getting loans from the Tamil Nadu Adi Dravidar Housing and Development Corporation (TAHDCO). Though loans were sanctioned a year ago, the disbursement was yet to be made, he said.

The assistant general manager, G. Sairajan, said that he would take steps to expedite the disbursement of loans in case they had been sanctioned.

In reply to a complaint from a farmer that land development banks (LDBs) refused loans to farmers despite their producing the patta passbooks, an LDB official said the farmers would have to produce their land document in order to be eligible for long-term loans or mortgage loans.

The Collector immediately questioned the approach of the LDB in refusing to take cognizance of patta passbooks for the purpose of issuing loans.

He said the patta passbook scheme had been introduced in Vellore district as a pilot scheme in 1995 itself and that patta passbooks were issued to the farmers.

It was a valid document pertaining to the ownership of land and therefore the LDBs would have to rely solely on the patta passbooks for the purpose of issuing long-term or mortgage loans, he said.

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