Sugarcane farmers from Sarlahi district and their supporters protest at the Maitighar Mandala in Kathmandu on Thursday. Photo: Dipesh Shrestha/Republica
Threatens to freeze transactions by defaulting mills
Agitating farmers want written commitment from govt
KATHMANDU, Jan 3: The government has vowed to resolve the payment issue of sugarcane within three weeks.
Speaking at a meeting of the National Assembly on Thursday, Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Lekhraj Bhatta said that the government has already directed all sugar mills to pay the farmers by the first week of Magh [January third week].
“We have already directed all sugar mills to clear 80 percent of the total dues to the farmers by January 10 and the remaining amount by the first week of Magh [January 21],” said Minister Bhatta. “The transactions of the mills, which fail to pay the farmers within the deadline, will be frozen,” he warned.
Sugarcane farmers said the mills are yet to clear outstanding payments since the past five years totaling Rs 1.33 billion. According to them, it is mainly six sugar mills that have been refusing to clear the dues.
The farmers have yet to recover Rs 420 million from Shree Ram Sugar Mills, Rs 400 million from Annapurna Sugar Mills, Rs 200 million from Mahalaxmi Sugar Mills, Rs 110 million from Bagmati Sugar Mills and Rs 100 million each from Indira Sugar Mills and Lumbini Sugar Mills, among others.
The government has also decided to form a task force to study the problems faced by sugarcane farmers including the delay in the payments and for fixing the price of sugarcane, among other things.
The task force has been given 15 days to recommend solutions to address the problems faced by sugarcane farmers. The task force has also been asked to suggest a mechanism to ensure that the farmers who sell their crops to the mills receive payments on the same day.
Minister Bhatta’s statement comes amid an outpouring of support for the sugarcane farmers who have come to Kathmandu and have been staging demonstration for the past several days demanding government intervention to resolve their problems.
“I assure the house that we are committed to resolving the sugarcane farmers’ problems and ensuring that such problems do not recur,” said Minister Bhatta, addressing the National Assembly while urging sugarcane farmers to end their protest and return home.
“The minister’s verbal commitment is sweet. But, we want a written commitment from the government with a clear mention of the payment date,” Rakesh Mishra, an agitating farmer, told Republica. “Our protest will continue until the government comes up with a written agreement,” he added.