Karnataka farmers seek sugarcane price hike

Bangalore, Nov 10 : Thousands of sugarcane farmers in Karnataka Sunday sought a hike in the minimum support price (MSP) of their crop, rejecting the state government's offer of Rs.2,500 per tonne for the current fiscal (2013-14).

Protesting against the MSP fixed by the state-run Sugarcane Control Board at a meeting here, hundreds of farmers took to the streets and blocked the busy Bangalore-Mysore highway, bringing the weekend vehicular traffic to a halt.

"The price fixed by the board is not acceptable to us as the cost of cultivation has gone up sharply. Unless the state government intervenes and hikes the price to at least Rs.3,000 per tonne, we will launch a statewide agitation from Monday," state farmers' association president G. Puttanaiah said at Mandya, about 100 km from here.

Hundreds of farmers at Belgaum in the sugarcane belt of the northern region of the state also staged a sit-in demonstration protesting against the MSP and accused the state government of betraying them.

"The revised MSP is only Rs.100 more than fixed last year (Rs.2,400 per tonne) though the cost of production has gone up by Rs.300-400 due to hike in fertiliser price, fuel cost and overheads. How can we sell sugarcane to mill owners at less than the cost of cultivation?," Belgaum district sugarcane farmers' association president S. Marakattanala told reporters at Belgaum, about 500 km from here.

With the crushing season beginning after Dasara and Deepavali festivals recently, thousands of sugarcane farmers are at logger heads with mill owners over the price fixation.

The central government has fixed a fair and remunerative price (FRP) of Rs.2,100 per tonne on the basis of 9.5 percent recovery for this fiscal.

"When mills in other states like Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat are paying above Rs.3,000 per tonne (ex-field), we are only asking for parity with them, as mills in our state are also making profits by selling sugar in the open market and by making by-products like ethanol and molasses," Karnataka Sugarcane Growers' Association president K. Shantkumar said in Belgaum.

The state government had recently set up the 15-member sugarcane control board after the Karnataka Sugarcane (purchase and supply control) Act 2013 was amended in the monsoon session of the state legislature.

Besides government officials, representatives of sugarcane farmers and mills are members of the board.

As the third largest producer in the country after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, Karnataka crushes 33 million tonnes of cane in 58 mills to produce 3.4 million tonnes of sugar annually, with 10.4 percent recovery.

--IANS (Posted on 10-11-2013)

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