Though the government has prioritized agriculture sector in its fiscal policies and periodic plans, sugarcane farmers are yet to get any benefits from such plans and policies.
Many farmers in Tarai districts have started sugarcane farming in recent year hoping to get better returns compared to traditional food crops. But delay in release of payment by sugar mills has dampened their hopes. As a result, many farmers are clearing sugarcane fields and reverting to traditional farming of food crops.
Sugarcane farmers across the country are worried that their crop will dry up in the field as sugar mills are not offering good price. They are using middlemen to force farmers to sell sugarcane at low price.
During to rise in sugar production last year, state-owned enterprises had purchased sugar from domestic sugar mills during Dashain and Tihar changing the trend of importing from India.
Though the government had directed the Ministry of Industry and Ministry of Agricultural Development on December 15 to set minimum support price of sugarcane within 15 days, the ministries have not been able to set the price yet. Sugarcane crushing began from November-end itself.
“It has nearly been two months that crushing season began. But the government has not fixed minimum support price,” Kapil Mani Mainali, leader of sugarcane farmers, said. Farmers are pushing for minimum support price of at least Rs 476 per quintal last year.
However, sugar mill operators say they would not be able to pay farmers such a high amount, arguing that price of sugarcane is falling in the market. Four rounds of tripartite meetings, among government officials, representatives of farmers and mill operators, have already been held to finalize minimum support price of sugarcane. But the stakeholders have not been able to fix the minimum support price. They had held the last meeting about a fortnight ago.
Shanta Raj Subedi, secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, said farmers should be given good price or else they would give up sugarcane farming. He said the government should think about providing subsidy on different agricultural inputs to encouraging more farmers to start sugarcane farming. “Schemes like subsidized agricultural loans at 6 percent rate can help farmers reduce their operation cost.
This will help make sugarcane farming attractive,” he added. Meanwhile, Mainali says farmers will resort to protest, like in 2009, if the government failed to find amicable solution to as the issue is directly related to bread and butter of thousands of farmers. The government had fixed minimum support price of Rs 476 per quintal for the last season in May — five months after sugarcane crushing began. Many farmers are yet to get payment for last year´s sugarcane purchase made by the mills.