We’ll settle issue with farmers, sugar barons assure CM

Last Updated 23 November 2018, 08:45 IST

Sugar factory owners have sought time to “amicably” resolve the issue over the settlement of dues with farmers. This was the only conclusion that came out of Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s four-hour-long meet with them on Thursday.

Kumaraswamy held closed-door talks with owners of 31 sugar factories, which included former ministers S R Patil, Satish Jarkiholi, Murugesh Nirani, Umesh Katti, Balachandra Jarkiholi and a representative of the South Indian Federation of Sugar Factory Owners. This, even as a section of sugarcane farmers continued their protest in Belagavi.

As per government records, sugar factories owe farmers Rs 35.67 crore based on last year’s fair and remunerative price (FRP) of Rs 2,550 per tonne. However, farmers say the dues are as high as Rs 450 crore as factories had not honoured oral price agreements.

Kumaraswamy asked the factories to settle the matter before the start of the winter session of the legislature in Belagavi on December 10. He insisted that factories had to pay whatever price that they agreed upon with farmers. The sugar barons explained their hardships, especially how the per-kg sugar price plummeted last year. The chief minister was also told that they had requested the Centre to set up a ‘Sugar Stability Fund’ to help cover losses.

Most factories in Belagavi district have paid farmers more than the FRP. However, nine factories have matched the FRP, but not the price that they had agreed to pay farmers. These owners said they would talk to farmers and settle the matter amicably.

Sugar factories in Bagalkot district have agreed to pay farmers Rs 2,250 per tonne, excluding Rs 650 towards transportation and harvesting.

“All factories have told the chief minister that they will check their financial position and get back to him on settling the dues. The issue will need 15 days to get resolved. It will have to be resolved amongst factories and the farmers only,” said Balachandra Jarkiholi, who runs the Ghataprabha Cooperative Sugar Factory in Belagavi.

Kumaraswamy directed the factories to stick to the FRP of Rs 2,750 per tonne fixed for the standing sugarcane crop this year, to which factories agreed.

“Going forward, all factories must arrive at a consensus and fix a price that works for all. Competing with each other by offering farmers varied prices will result in this problem every year,” Balachandra said.

(Published 23 November 2018, 08:37 IST)

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