Government convenes all-party meeting on sugarcane price

Sunday, November 22, 2009, 6:44 by Business Editor

New Delhi: The Central Government has decided to hold an all-party meeting on November 23, 2009, to discuss the new policy on sugarcane after the Opposition parties jointly opposed the policy in the Lok Sabha and the sugarcane farmers demonstrated outside Parliament.

An ordinance passed in October 2009, named the Sugarcane Control (Amendment) Order 2009, altered the government’s policy on sugarcane by fixing a uniform price. This change would cause financial burden to the states in case the states announce prices that are higher than those fixed by the Central Government.

In the Lok Sabha, the main Opposition parties were united in opposing the new policy.

The protests in the Lok Sabha were led by Rajnath Singh, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Mulayam Singh Yadav, president of the Samajwadi Party, and Ajit Singh, president of the Rashtriya Lok Dal. The noisy scenes prompted Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to adjourn the House.

In the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said the Opposition parties were prepared for talks if the “anti-farmer component” of the Sugarcane Control (Amendment) Order 2009 was taken away.

The Trinamool Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, which are allies of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), also supported the Opposition’s stand vis-à-vis the sugarcane policy.

The Opposition parties also are demanding that the Union Government put an end to importing sugar from Brazil, arguing that imports acted against the interests of the sugarcane farmers.

Following the protests by the Opposition inside the House and a huge demonstration by the sugarcane farmers in front of Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called a meeting, which was attended by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Law Minister Veerappa Moily and Home Minister P Chidambaram.

A separate meeting on the new sugarcane policy was held in the Ministry of Agriculture.

The National Alliance of Farmers Associations is demanding that at least Rs 250 per 100 kilogrammes be paid as the price for sugarcane.

The farmers who protested before Parliament on November 19, 2009, had threatened to burn their produce if the sugar mills did not double the last season’s price of Rs 140 per 100 kilogrammes.

Thousands of protesting sugarcane farmers from all over northern India had laid a virtual siege on New Delhi on November 19, 2009. They carried sugarcane stems and blockaded the main roads in central Delhi as they marched from the Ramlila Grounds to Jantar Mantar.

The protest by the sugarcane farmers was organized by various organizations, including the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), headed by Mahendra Singh Tikait, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), led by Ajit Singh, and the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan.

During the demonstration, many farmers warned of “violent protests” if the Central Government did not accede to their demands.

Meanwhile, sugar mills in Uttar Pradesh have not yet started crushing for this season, which usually commences in November, because of non-availability of sugarcane.

According to reports, the owners of sugar mills have agreed to pay the farmers Rs 180 per quintal of sugarcane – which is Rs 50 higher than the “fair and remunerative price” of Rs 129.84 per quintal.

The farmers, who demand that they be paid Rs 280 a quintal, have stopped supplies of sugarcane, anticipating a higher price.

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