Farmer-factory row: Bitter sugar war on

Hubballi: The tussle between cane growers and sugar factories has intensified in North Karnataka. The factories are refusing to pay the price for sugarcane demanded by the farmers. This has prompted the farmers to wage a war against the factories by showcasing their strength through rallies and by laying siege to the offices of deputy commissioner. 

The mills have also suspended cane crushing operations as farmers have pledged to stop harvesting until settlement of their pending bills running into crores of rupees. The soured relations between cane growers and factories is posing a tough challenge to the state government in the backdrop of the many suicide cases of farmers and notices issued by the banks to them for recovery of loans. Meanwhile, the Belagavi district administration has directed the mill owners to pay the arrears  in two weeks. 

Most of the sugar factories in Bagalkote, Belagavi and Vijayapur are owned by ministers and MLAs. Therefore, the farmers allege that the officials have failed to initiate action against them and have given in to their pressure. They also contend that the mill owners have failed to pay the cane price of Rs 2,900 per tonne. Accusing factories of cheating them by showing lesser sugar recovery, they charged that they are also being deceived during weighing of cane produce. 

"Sugarcane growers will have to switch to other crops if their demands are not met. This will lead to closure of  sugar factories. Therefore,  factories should settle bills as per the fair and remunerative price (FRP) fixed by the Centre without delay", farmer leader Pandappa Kamaladinni said. Meanwhile, sugar mill owners claimed they cannot pay the price demanded by farmers as their factories are facing severe financial crunch. They said the cost of harvesting and transportation of cane  is being borne by them.

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