Pune: Sugar commissioner to colour code mills based on payment history

Ahead of the 2020-21 sugarcane crushing season, Maharashtra’s sugar commissioner has decided to colour code mills on the basis of their payment history. Shekhar Gaikwad, the sugar commissioner, said the step will act as a ready guide for farmers to decide where to sell their cane.

According to rules, mills are mandated to pay farmers the government-declared Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) within 14 days of selling their cane. The Sugarcane Control Order, 1966 has provisions to crack down on errant mills but the action, which includes recovery of the unpaid payment as dues, takes time to materialise.

For this, sugar commissioners need to first declare the mill as errant after which district collectors auction sugar stock of the mill to recover the dues.

Given the fact that cane as a crop remains on field for more than one year, delay in payment is a major concern for farmers, experts said. This delay disturbs the economy of the farmers in terms of repayment of crop loans etc, they added. For farmers, word-of-mouth has been the only way of knowing the payment behaviour of mills, they said.

Now, based on the past payment behaviour of mills, Gaikwad’s office has colour coded them as red, yellow and green. While mills that have been marked as green have paid their FRP on time, yellow and red had seen delays.

Mills tagged red had delayed their payment substantially and thus had seen action by the sugar commissioner in the past.

Gaikwad, while speaking to The Indian Express, said colour coding of mills will help farmers know the payment behaviour of mills before they decide to sell their cane.

While farmers, who are shareholders of cooperative mills, are mandated to sell a portion of their cane to the mills, no such obligations exists for private mills. But now, mills which had defaulted in payment would find it difficult to raise funds to immediately pay their farmers.

The chart has earmarked 53 mills against which action has been taken. “This would be the first time our office has taken such an action,” he said.

Gaikwad’s office would be sharing this chart with farmers on their Whatsapp numbers by the end of the week.

Maharashtra has around 40 lakh cane growers and efforts would be taken to ensure all of them get this table through mass transfer. “We hope this will help farmers make an informed decision about their crop,” he said.

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