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Sugarcane yield likely to be down to 37 tonnes/acre

Cyclones break the back of farmers in Krishna district

Chandrasekhar  |  Vijayawada 

This year's cyclones have dampened the spirit of sugarcane farmers of Krishna district, mostly small and middle class tenants, who have cultivated the crop in about 33,000 acres.
The cyclones have not only damaged the crop but also brought in its wake pests such as redrot and whitefly, and putting paid to any hopes of farmers celebrating happily the New Year and Sankranti.
There are about 14,000 sugarcane farmers, mostly small and middle class tenants. As against the 45 tonnes of yield per acre last year, this year farmers cannot hope for more than 37 tonnes per acre.
Moreover, the Central government officials have raised sugar recovery percentage to 9 per cent from 8.5 per cent for the purpose of fixing minimum support price (MSP). This means a loss of Rs 60 per tonne.
At present, farmers are getting Rs 1,060 per tonne (Rs 991 last year) from KCP Sugars, Vuyyur, which includes Rs 60 purchase tax given by the state government.
The hike in recovery percentage neutralises the increase in sugarcane price paid by KCP Sugars, P Giriraju, former sarpanch of Inampudi and a leader of farmers, told to Business Standard.
"Due to reduced cane yield, farmers have lost Rs 8,000-9,000 per acre, as compared to the 2004-2005 season. The hike in the sugar recovery percentage will further reduce the loss by Rs 2,000 per acre, taking the total loss to Rs 10,000-11,000 per acre.
In stark contrast to the plight of sugarcane growers here, their counterparts in Gujarat get the highest MSP at Rs 1,900 per tonne (11.5 pr cent recovery).
In Maharashtra, they get around Rs 1,600. Even in Andhra Pradesh itself, farmers under the Bodhan factory in Nizamabad district are paid Rs 1,260 on 9.4 per cent recovery. Giriraju has urged the KCP management to pay at least the same amount to farmers in Krishna district as in Nizamabad district.
K Bhaskar Reddy, a progressive farmer of Chalivendrapalem, said tenants constituting 60 per cent of the sugarcane growers in the district were the worst sufferers as they pay on an average 16 tonnes per acre as rent to landowners. While the landowner makes a clean profit without shedding a drop of sweat, toiling tenants are left with losses.
Even more curious is the fact that mill owners make a clean Rs 2,465 per tonne of sugarcane, which includes Rs 1,980 on 110 kg sugar extracted from a tonne of cane (at the rate of Rs 18 per kg), Rs 490 on bagasse and Rs 175 on molasses. Some mills even generate power out of cane byproducts. Even if sugar mills pay Rs 1,400 per tonne to farmers, they would pocket a margin of Rs 1,245 per tonne.
B Ramam of Ghantasalapalem appealed to the state government to declare cane advisory price, which was stopped four years ago.
He said, "sugar mills in the state took the issue to court. Though the Supreme Court advised the state to amend the statute and declare advisory price, the latter has not yet taken any initiative in this regard. The governments of Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh pay Rs 300 per tonne as an advisory price in addition to the MSP."
The State alone earns Rs 4,000 crore as excise on molasses. The mills under the Sugarcane Act (Clause 5 A-Bhargava formula) should disburse to farmers 50 per cent of profits they earn on free sales. This benefit too has not reached farmers so far. The government should set right all these anomalies and help cane farmers get a reasonably good remunerative price, he said.

First Published: Fri, December 30 2005. 00:00 IST