Kathmandu, January 24
Even after the government’s deadline given to sugar mill owners to pay the dues of sugarcane farmers ended on January 21, the mill owners have failed to do so. As a result, the Sugarcane Farmers’ Struggle Committee has started its second phase of protests from today to pressure the government to recover the due payments of farmers from sugar mills.
Out of the dues worth Rs one billion that sugar mills had to pay, they have distributed only Rs 117.5 million so far. Moreover, farmers are still to receive the subsidy from the government.
The delay in payments has also affected sugarcane production.
As per farmers, in Sarlahi district alone around 10 million quintals of sugarcane used to be produced.
However, in the last fiscal year, only 4.2 quintals of sugarcane was produced.
Sarlahi produces the largest quantity of sugarcane in the country.
“Farmers are being discouraged from taking up sugarcane farming in recent years as they have to struggle a lot to receive their payments for their produce,” committee member Rajesh Yadav said. “Forget about receiving the government subsidy, we are struggling to even get our personal payments.”
Yadav further said that the lengthy process involved in getting the government subsidy is a bother for farmers.
“Our committee requested the government to introduce a policy whereby sugar mills and the government would mandatorily provide farmers’ payments within 15 days of sugarcane crushing,” he said. He added that most farmers don’t have any hope of receiving the government subsidy as they have not received it for the last two years.
In 2018, the government announced it would provide subsidy of Rs 60 per quintal to sugarcane farmers.
The work of subsidy distribution was handed over to the District Treasury Office (DTO). Although the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development has handed over Rs 920 million of the total subsidies worth Rs 1.37 billion to DTO, only Rs 230 million has been distributed till date.
“The remaining Rs 69 million is stuck at the DTO, which has been citing the lengthy administrative process for the delay in distributing the subsidy,” said Dinesh Bhattarai, spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies. As DTO is yet to distribute such a huge amount of subsidy, it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask the Ministry of Finance to release the remaining subsidy amount, he added.
Meanwhile, Yadav accused the government of drafting bothersome policies. “The subsidy distribution policy must be amended and made effective so that the genuine sugarcane farmers can receive the amount without any hassle,” he stated.
A version of this article appears in print on January 25, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.