Maharashtra's bitter message to sugar mills: No money to fund you

Mumbai: Amidst plummeting sugar prices in international markets, the Maharashtra Government today expressed helplessness in monetarily assisting mill owners to pay fair and remunerative price to cane growers, saying there is not enough money to even pay salaries of its employees.

"Due to drop in sugar prices, sugar factories are not being able to give fair and remunerative price (FRP) to farmers. According to the central government rules, it will be a criminal offence if they fail to pay FRP to farmers.

"Mill owners are asking for the state government's (monetary) help so that they can give FRP to farmers. But the state does not even have enough money to pay the salaries of government employees for this month," Cooperation Minister Chandrakant Patil told PTI.

"The total amount of money that sugar mill owners are asking for is roughly Rs 2,800 crore. The previous government
has given us empty coffers. Where do we get this kind of money from? If mill owners are doing business, they will need to deal with this problem themselves. We are trying to sort this out, but for now, we are unable to do anything," Patil said.

Patil said the Rangarajan Committee, appointed to look into sugar pricing and decontrol, has stated that giving FRP
is an issue that is between the mill owners and farmers and the Government has no role to play in it.

"The Central Government has already given a loan of Rs 2,100 crore (to mills). The shortfall is once again adding up to Rs 2,800 crore. How long will this last? This (fund mop up) is the basic responsibility of sugar factories."

"There are ups and downs in every industry. But industry players deal with such situations themselves. If all other industries can (tackle finances), why can't sugar factories as well?" Patil asked.

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