Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh in Monday warned that it would invoke National Security Act, 1980 (NSA) against illegal procurement by the ‘sugarcane mafia’. According to UP sugarcane commissioner Sanjay R Bhoosreddy, the department had received several complaints about illegal procurement of cane by such elements, who purchase the crop at throwaway prices from farmers under duress and supply it to mills. Even some sugar mills have been found to be complicit in such illicit activities, which have not only harmed the farmers’ interests, but have also tarnished the image of the cane department. He has directed state deputy cane commissioners, district cane officers and assistant sugar commissioners for strict adherence to sugarcane procurement policy and taking steps to weed out the cane mafia from the entire value chain. The field officers have been ordered for spot visits and videograph/photograph to identify the cane mafia active in their areas. Later, cases under NSA would be prepared and filed before the concerned District Magistrate for action, which entails minimum jail term of three months. Action would also be taken against the concerned sugar mill, if they are found to be involved in such illegal activities. To keep cane farmers in good humour in run up to the UP urban local bodies elections, the Adityanath government had on October 26 hiked SAP by Rs 10 per quintal for the ongoing 2017-18 crushing season. With this hike, projected improved sugar recovery and higher cane acreage this season, the government has estimated UP sugar output to touch 11 million tonnes (MT) and total farmers payables at almost Rs 30,000 crore. SAP was hiked by Rs 10 per quintal for the different varieties of the crop even. Against the cane price of Rs 305 per quintal for common variety, the SAP for the 2017-18 season now stands at Rs 315 per quintal.
Likewise the price of early maturing and unsuitable cane variety is now Rs 325 and Rs 310 per quintal respectively.Almost 70 per cent of the cane crop falls under common variety and thus forms the median price paid to farmers by mills. Earlier, farmers’ bodies had demanded much higher level of sugar price citing rising cost of farm inputs even as the mills had expressed their inability to pay any steeper price given their purported tight liquidity and financial condition and projected fall in domestic retail sugar prices following higher output. Last season, UP had clocked sugar output of about 8.75 MT and the total payables were to the tune of Rs 25,386 crore. This season, the UP sugarcane acreage is estimated at 22.99 lakh hectares (LH), up 11.20 percent of 2.45 LH, compared to 20.54 LH in 2016-17. This year, the state sugarcane department had distributed 60 lakh quintals of high quality seed to farmers to improve productivity and sugar recovery. ‘Sugarcane mafia’ refers to middlemen who register themselves as farmers with state sugarcane societies. During crushing season, they procure the crop from small farmers at cheaper rates and pass on the same to sugar mills at much higher government fixed rates known as State Advised Price (SAP).