SARLAHI, June 3: The Indu Shankar Sugar Mill has halted the payment to the sugarcane farmers, stating that it needed time to analyze the effects on the industry that the budget for Fiscal Year 2018/19 could make. According to a statement released by the mill, it has halted the scheduled payments since May 31, 2018 due to this reason.
However, farmer leaders have said that the mill has been dilly dallying the payments although the newly announced budget for the upcoming fiscal year will make no changes in the status quo of the sugar industries.
“This is to inform whomsoever may it concern that the payment for sugarcane received by this mill until February 29, 2018, has been halted until further notice as the mill has to analyze the effects that the budget announced on May 29, 2018 might have posed on the industry,” reads a statement published by the mill.
Speaking with Republica, the mill's administrative officer, Thakur Nepal stated: “To study the effects of the government budget, we have halted the payment for a few days.” The industry has so far paid Rs 870 million to the farmers. And we have been able to repay the dues until February 12 through four collection centers and until January 29 in the rest of the centers, according to the accounts of the mills.
Farmers including Chairman of Hariban Municipality Ward 11, Shesh Mehboob Reja, had even staged hunger strike demanding payments immediately. The mills that used to repay the farmers within a month, has not cleared the dues even three months after the farmers supplied sugarcane. On March 26, 2018, the fourth day of the strike, an agreement was brokered by Province 2 Chief Minister Lal Babu Raut between the mills and farmers after which, the mills had started repaying the farmers.
Kapil Muni Mainali, president of Nepal Sugarcane Producers Association, said that the halt in payment was just another plot by the mill to not pay the dues. He said: “There is no relation between the budget and halting the payment of the farmers. This is just an excuse to stop payment.” He argued, other mills like Everest Sugar Mill have already stopped payment and Indu Shankar has followed the same path.
Mainali added that with the mill not paying on time, the farmers will have a hard time affording their daily bread. “Farmers have always been at the receiving end. They either try not to pay the designated price, or they don't pay on time. And the case as of now is a continuity of the dominance they have been showing for years one way or the other.”
Raj Kumar Upreti, president of Nepal Sugarcane Farmer's Association stated: “It is not right for the mill operators to stop payment of farmers due to the budget of an upcoming year. The industrialists find many ways to defer payment, and if a new schedule is not released within two days, we will start protesting.”
The mill that started crushing sugarcane in the midst of December processed 4.02 million quintals of sugar and shut down in mid-April. Farmers who directly submitted sugarcane to the mill were supposed to receive Rs 531.20 per quintal of sugarcane, while the farmers who deposited sugarcane at the collection depots were supposed to receive Rs 506.20 per quintal.
Sarlahi stands as the largest sugarcane producer in the nation, where 21,000 hectares of land were cultivated with sugarcane in the past fiscal year. Farmers have anticipated that they will be cultivating sugarcane on 24,000 hectares of land this year according to the District Agriculture Development Office.