Pay farmers only Rs 160 million despite making promises to clear over Rs 1 billion in dues by Tuesday
KATHMANDU, Jan 22: Sugarcane farmers, who were hopeful of receiving their outstanding payments from sugar producers by this week, have been left disappointed yet again.
Bowing to pressure from all quarters, sugar producers had expressed commitments three weeks ago to settle pending dues of farmers by Tuesday. But they failed to live up to their commitments, leaving farmers high and dry.
Three weeks ago, sugarcane farmers from various districts had staged a weeklong protest in Kathmandu. They had withdrawn their protest on January 3 after mill owners expressed commitment to release payments by January 21. But sugar producers paid only nominal amount to farmers within the prescribed date.
A source at the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies (MoICS) said sugar mills have paid only around Rs 160 million out of total dues of over Rs 1 billion.
The source said farmers have yet to recover Rs 420 million from Annapurna Sugar Mills, Rs 267.70 million from Shree Ram Sugar Mills, Rs 117.50 million from Mahalaxmi Sugar Mills, Rs 110 million from Bagmati Sugar Mills and Rs 100 million from Lumbini Sugar Mills. “The mills are still requesting the government to extend the deadline to clear the dues,” the source added.
The source further said Shree Ram Sugar Mills has proposed to pay farmers by selling its fixed assets. “Responding to its proposal, the ministry has written to the concerned Land Revenue Office to provide details of the fixed assets of the sugar factory,” said the source.
Similarly, Annapurna Sugar Mill has said it will be able to pay farmers only after it receives payment from Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). “The MoICS has written to the Ministry of Energy for needful facilitation for channelize to amount to the concerned farmers,” informed the source. “In the last two weeks, Mahalaxmi Sugar Mill has offloaded almost half of the amount that it owed to the farmers. It has told us that it will clear the remaining amount soon.”
The source said the owners of Lumbini Sugar Mill and Bagmati Sugar Mill have gone out of contact. “We have written to the Ministry of Home Affairs to take necessary actions against these defaulters,” said the source.
There are thirteen sugar mills in the country.
The government has repeatedly been directing sugar producers to pay the farmers on time, but to little effect. Although this year's cane harvest season is at its peak, farmers felt compelled to come all the way to the capital to put pressure on the government.
Hari Shyam Raya, secretary of an action committee formed by the farmers, said the farmers could come to Kathmandu again to launch similar protests if the issue is not resolved. “We are holding a meeting on Wednesday to decide on our next move,” he added.
Meanwhile, farmers say sugar producers were trying to deceive farmers yet again with the help of government officials. "It has come to our knowledge that sugar producers held a meeting with government officials on Tuesday, and that the government officials are positive about extending the deadline," Rakesh Mishra, a member of the action committee, told Republica.