Punjab govt to clear ₹300-cr dues of cane growers by September 15

The Punjab government will release 300 crore to cooperative sugar mills in three installments by September 15, amid 462 crore pending to be paid to cane growers across the state. The next crushing season is to begin in November.

Agriculture minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal made this announcement on Friday during a meeting with the leaders of Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella organisation of farmers’ unions that had led the yearlong agitation against the Centre’s now-repealed agricultural laws.

There are 16 sugar mills in the state, with seven in private sector and the remaining controlled by the state government’s cooperation department. While private mills owe 162 crore to sugarcane growers, the nine mills in cooperative sector have to pay 300 crore.

According to Dhaliwal, the first instalment of 100 crore will be released by July 30, the second of the same amount by August 30 while the final 100 crore will be cleared by September 15. Payments to farmers are pending since April this year when the crushing season had ended. In the past one month, the government and private mills have cleared over 200 crore dues.

The minister told SKM leaders that owners of private mills will also be asked to ensure timely payments to farmers, and in case of non-compliance the mill would be shut down. The government has already started the process to attach properties of a private mill in Phagwara, which owes about 76 crore to farmers for the past three seasons.

In the last season, sugarcane was cultivated over 1.10 lakh hectares area, and the mills crushed 6.4 crore quintals of cane to produce 59 lakh tonnes of sugar. The state government pays a state advised price (SAP) of 360 per quintal for early maturing varieties and 350 a quintal for late maturing cane. Out of the total SAP paid to the farmers by the private mills, the state government contributes 35 per quintal.

Dept taking stock of whitefly attack: Minister

The minister also the SKM leaders that government teams have visited 730 spots in the cotton belt of Muktsar, Bathinda and Barnala where whitefly had damaged the crop. “The teams will visit the affected spots again on July 28 to assess the damage,” he said.

The minister also assured the delegation that he would emphatically take up with chief minister Bhagwant Mann the issue of FIRs registered against farmers during the yearlong agitation against central laws besides ensuring jobs to the next of kin of those killed during those protests. He also asked the farmers to join hands with the government in order to save the subsoil water.