KATHMANDU, Oct 29: Sugar mills have started releasing pending payments to sugarcane farmers after the Department of Industry (DoI) stopped providing government services like issuing letter of recommendations to the mills.
Giving a five-day deadline earlier on October 8, the government had directed the mills to clear all dues of farmers. The government had to issue stern directive following the complaints that sugar mills were not releasing payments to farmers even ahead of the Dashain festival.
According to DoI officials, it has ordered local administration to not accept applications from mills for services like issuing letter of recommendation, extending industry operation hours, and registration/renewal works, among others. “Representatives of some mills even approached the DoI. But we rejected their applications and asked them to settle dues that they owe to farmers first,” an official of the DoI said, requesting anonymity.
The official added that sugar mills have now started releasing payments to farmers.
Sugar mills have released payments worth around Rs 1 billion to sugar mills so far. Kapil Muni Mainali, president of Nepal Sugarcane Producers Federation, said Shree Ram Sugar Mills of Rautahat, Everest Sugar Mill of Mahottari, Indu Shankar Chini Udyog Ltd of Sarlahi, and Indira Sugar Mills, Bagmati Sugar Mills and Lumbini Sugar mills of Nawalparasi have released payments to farmers on installments. “They started paying farmers after they were deprived of government services. Though all dues haven’t been cleared, farmers got to celebrate the festival with joy and happiness,” he added.
Despite making payments to farmers, Shree Ram Sugar Mills still has Rs 100 million worth of outstanding dues to settle. Similarly, outstanding dues of Everest Sugar Mills is Rs 160 million, while three mills of Nawalaparasi -- Indira, Bagmati and Lumbini -- owe farmers a combined Rs 120 million.
“Indu Shankar has settled most of its dues. Other mills have also started releasing payments,” Mainali said, adding: “However, Annapurna Sugar Mill of Sarlahi district is not heeding the government’s direction. It owes Rs 330 million to farmers.”
He added that promoters of Annapurna Sugar Mill were being indifferent to sufferings of cane farmers. “If other mills can settle almost half of their dues within few day after the government’s came, why this mill cannot?” wondered Mainali.
Sugar mill operators have expressed commitment to settle all outstanding dues by November.
Meanwhile, the government is still to release Rs 1.22 billion in grants to the farmers. According to Mainali, farmers are facing difficulty in receiving the grant because of cumbersome administrative formalities.