BIDAR, MARCH 7. There seems to be no end to the plight of sugarcane growers in Bidar, who have had a reduced yield due to delayed rainfall and pest attacks. Also, the delay in clearing dues by all the three cooperative sugar factories in the district has left them in the lurch.
Bidar does not have an irrigation project and most of the sugarcane is grown using groundwater. It is the only cash crop grown in the district, where over 93 per cent of the population is dependent on agriculture.
Sugarcane made farmers rich and created a situation in which agriculture and cooperative banks thrived. The District Central Cooperative (DCC) Bank and the Krishna Grameena Bank, in many ways, owe their success to sugarcane growers.
The high sugarcane yield in the district also led to the establishment of 10 Khandasari sugar factories, apart from innumerable in-house crushing units making jaggery. Bidar also has some of the highest yields of sugarcane to its credit, so much so that some organic farmers have named their association, "Hundred Tonnes Per Acre Sugarcane Growers' Association." This year, however, the yield has come down considerably, with some farmers reporting yields as low as 15 tonnes per acre. This has significantly affected the financial conditions of farmers.
According to a press release issued by Gurupadappa Nagamarapalli, President of the DCC Bank and Chairman of the Naranja Sahakari Sakkare Karakhane (NSSK), the average sugarcane yield in the district has come down to 20 tonnes per acre.
Scientists attribute this to the delayed rainfall in the later part of the previous year and also to the attack of "woolly aphid" on sugarcane crop grown in over 15,000 hectares. Factories, which have an average crushing capacity of five lakh tonnes per year, have achieved only 70 per cent of the target.
Adding to the farmers' woes is the delayed payment by sugar factories. Supply of sugarcane to factories has been on credit for many years now.
But at least this year, none of the factories have followed the provisions of the Sugar Control Act, which stipulates that payments be made to farmers within 14 days of supplying sugarcane.
Last year, the Bidar Sahakari Sakkare Karakhane (BSSK) was the only factory functioning in the district and most of the farmers transported their produce to factories in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. This year, as the NSSK and the Mahatma Gandhi Sahakari Sakkare Karakhane (MGSSK) have started the crushing operations, most of the growers supplied sugarcane to the factories, though better prices were offered by the factories in the neighbouring States. While the sugar factories in Bidar pay Rs. 600 to Rs. 650 per tonne of sugarcane, those in Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh pay Rs. 900.
All the three factories together owe around Rs 33 crore to farmers.
While the BSSK owes Rs. 16.35 crore to farmers, the NSSK's arrears total to 15.3 crore, and the MGSSK has to pay Rs. 1 crore. The factories cite reasons such as restrictions by the Centre on the sale of sugar in the open market and delayed sanctioning of loans by banks as reasons for the mounting dues.
Meanwhile, the farmers pay Rs. 2 crore as interest on their crop loans to the DCC Bank every month. A radical shift in the overall cropping pattern seems to be the only long lasting solution to the problem.
The Hindu- March 8, 2004.