Sugarcane cultivation turns a bitter pill for farmers

Area under the crop has shrunk to 1,150 hectares from around 3,900 hectares

The sugarcane cultivation area in Madurai district has drastically shrunk to around 1,150 hectares this year compared to a six-year average of around 3,900 hectares.

The delay in settlement of dues from cooperative sugar mills, compounded by the financial crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic, has discouraged farmers to cultivate sugarcane – a cash crop promoted by the Agricultural Department.

N. Palanichamy, president, Tamil Nadu Sugarcane Farmers’ Association, says that the National Cooperative Sugar Mill at Alanganallur has not paid a Fair Remunerative Price (FRP) of around ₹1 crore to farmers who had harvested sugarcane from February. Apart from this, the mill has not paid the State Advisory Price on sugarcane for a period of two years, totalling to ₹19 crore, he added.

Many farmers had borrowed extensively to pay labourers for cutting cane, says S, Jayakalai, a farmer from Thirumal village in Thirumangalam block. “The farmers have to pay around ₹1,500 to labourers for cutting one tonne of sugarcane. But, one tonne of sugarcane fetches an income of only around ₹2, 750.” he says.

But, even this amount is not paid to farmers on time. “Hence, farmers have stopped cultivating sugarcane, despite the good demand for the crop. Many farmers are struggling to repay their loans. So, they have opted to cultivate other crops like cotton, banana and groundnut,” he adds.

K. Kathiresan, a farmer from Vellalore village in Melur block, says that around a decade back, sugarcane was cultivated in around 5,000 hectares in the district. “But, over the years, the cultivation area has drastically reduced. The delay in payment of dues has demotivated small and marginal farmers to cultivate sugarcane,” he says.

Mr. Palanichamy says that the government must increase the FRP to ensure that the farmers earn decent profits.

Joint Director of Agriculture T. Vivekanandan says that the department is taking steps to expedite the settlement of dues to the sugarcane farmers.

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