Maharashtra allows payment of FRP in two instalments

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22 February 2022, New Delhi: THE STATE government’s move to allow the payment of Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) for cane procured from farmers in two instalments has been opposed by farmers. Farmers claim that the move will see cane farmers being pushed into penury.

On Monday, the state government issued a resolution, which among other things allowed mills to pay the basic FRP in two instalments. The state government has declared a formula where the first payment would be the basic FRP of the region depending on the average sugar recovery while the final recovery and thus payment would be calculated within 15 days of the end of the season. The final calculation will consider the income from the sale of sugar and ethanol manufactured from various sources viz cane juice, B heavy or C molasses.

To streamline the payment process, the state has been divided into two recovery zones namely the revenue divisions of Pune and Nashik where the average recovery is 10 per cent while the rest of the state would have an average recovery of 9.5 per cent.

Monday’s resolution turns aside the present practice where sugar mills declare and pay the farmers according to their previous year’s sugar recovery. So, for the 2021-22 season, mills will pay farmers at the rate of the recovery of the 2020-21 sugar cane crushing season. The order, which will be implementable from the 2022-23 season, would see mills getting some breathing space to clear their dues.

However, farmers claim that the order is against their interests. Farmers in Sangli and Kolhapur, who have enjoyed higher payments so far than the rest of Maharashtra because of the high sugar recovery will be paid at par with farmers in Ahmednagar where recovery is comparatively less.

For Sangli and Kolhapur where the average recovery is 12.50 per cent, the average FRP (minus harvesting and transport charges of Rs 500 per tonne) works out in the range of Rs 2,800 per tonne, while that of Ahmednagar works out to be much lesser at Rs 2,100-2,200 per tonne.

For the rest of the state, the average first instalment would work out to be Rs 2,000-2,100 per tonne. Once the season ends, the final FRP would be calculated, and the final payment would be done to farmers.

Former MP Raju Shetti has ‘dared’ the state government and the mills to implement this order. Shetti, whose parliamentary constituency of Hatkanagale is spread between the sugar bowls of Sangli and Kolhapur, dared the mills to start their operation with this arrangement. “This is daylight robbery and we will never allow this,” he said.

Farmers like Ankush Chormule of Ashta village in Walva taluka of Sangli district termed the order preposterous. Chormule grows cane over nine acres and mills in his area, including the one managed by NCP leader and state minister Jayant Patil. On average, the recovery of the mills that Chormule supplies cane is in the range of 12.50-13 per cent and thus his basic FRP, which is to be paid in one go is in the range of Rs 2,850-2,900 per tonne. “By this order, my first payment would now be Rs 2,100 per tonne. What is the guarantee that mills will declare the right recovery and thus ensure payment is made to us after the season,” he said. Chormule also pointed out that given the increasing cost of fertilisers, profit has gone down. “Now if we have to accept this mode of payment, cane cultivation will no longer be feasible for us,” he said.

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