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Battle of Sugarcane Price

The battle of sugarcane tops the agenda of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana [SSS]. Sanghatana has mobilized mass movement of farmers against organized loot of sugar cane producing farmers by the cooperative sugar lobby. It is because of the series of agitations and protests by the SSS that sugarcane prices have been raised upto 1300 rupees. However the battle still continues.

According to us, Sugar cane producing farmers are bearing an expenses of Rs. 61019.95 per hector production and they are getting much less than it. According to Shri Raju Shetti if we consider that sugar factories are selling sugar at the rate of Rs. 14/ - per kg., they will get Rs. 1750/- and if we add the income from the by products of sugar production the amount will go to Rs. 2900/- , where as factories are expensing only Rs. 1011/- [production Rs. 600/-, excise Rs.200/- and Sales tax Rs. 211/-]. We are demanding rate of Rs. 1280/- and factories will be left with profit of Rs. 609/- per ton even after paying us as per our demand.

Where as the factories say that the production expenses is Rs. 935/- and it is increasing day by day, season by season. We do not agree with this. The main reason of loss and low rate is total mismanagement and organized corruption in cooperative sugar factories, which need to be eradicated.

We have to keep it in mind that almost one third of sugar production of the country is produced by alone Maharashtra state and over 2.5 crore farmers are depending on this. 188 sugar factories of the state are providing employment to almost 1.8 lakhs of people beside the over 80 lakhs people are earning during the sugar production season. This year's buffer production is warning for the state government to look into matter very seriously to avoid the unrest of the people. It is essential that a long term planning must be made effective immediately so not only the sugar factories are avoided from storing the produced sugar but also the farmers should get proper rates. It is a really good that government allowed mixing of , up to 10% of ethanol to Petrol, but a proper management in the fields of export and sale of sugar in the domestic markets is most essential as failing in these area will result in crisis either for sugar factories or for the common citizens in the form of price hike of sugar.

According to us, the sugar mills have breached the agreement signed between sugar mill owners and the farmers on November 11, 2006. As per the agreement, the minimum purchase price was fixed at Rs 1,280 per tonne, of this Rs 900 was to be paid in the next fortnight and Rs 380 over six weeks. The mills currently refuse to pay this second installment.

Shetkari Sanghtana is determined to claim the balance 380 rupees per tone as promised and will continue to fight for legitimate price for sugarcane, without affecting interest of sugar consumers.

If private sugar factories like Reliance can afford to declare rate of 1700 rupees, then what is wrong with heavily subsidized co-operative sugar factories?


Milk Price War

Fair milk price is another major issue taken up by the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana. Farmers supplying milk to cooperative milk processing units in Kolhapur are protesting under the banner of SSS against the directors of these units for not paying a fair price . Most of the villages in south Maharashtra have primary cooperative milk dairies that collect milk from local farmers and supply it to milk processing units. After pasteurizing and packing the milk, the processing units supply it to urban areas in the state, including Mumbai.

Raju Shetti, MP and chief of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), who has earlier launched a protest against sugar barons, has now mobilized the Farmers' United Front to fight the milk barons. Farmers have demanded that they be paid Rs 18 per litre against the Rs 12 they get now. Pasteurized and packaged milk is sold at Rs 20 per litre in Kolhapur and other cities and at Rs 24 per litre in Mumbai. About 11 lakh litres of milk is collected and distributed every day.

According to us, while pasteurizing, packaging and transporting milk cost Rs 6 per litre, the remaining Rs 6 is the profit, which means processing units make a profit of Rs 66 lakh a day. We allege that the profit is distributed among the directors who have amassed wealth and assets while the farmers do not get a fair price. The farmers have observed a one-day bandh and if the directors did not respond, the protests would be intensified.

The recent decision of government to reduce milk price is unfortunate and Sanghtana has planned to protest it by all means.