Nepal’s sugarcane farmers protests after payment deadline exceeds

Sugarcane farming is the main source of income for the family of Gagandev Raya of Sarlahi, Kharwa. The money from sugarcane farming would feed a family of 10 including his two sons.

Raya’s family has delivered up to 600 metric tonnes of sugarcane annually to Annapurna and Mahalakshmi Sugar Mills in the district. However, in recent years, sugarcane mills have stopped paying for their sugarcane production. The amount these sugar mills owes him is about Rs 400,000.

As paying from the mill stopped, he took a loan to meet the needs of the family. The loan interest, which was at 36 percent, to run the house expenses reached so high that he had to sell his sugarcane field to repay the loan and he is now at Kathmandu with other sugarcane farmers to express his grief.

“I had only 300 rupees in my pocket. After coming to Malangwa and taking a loan of Rs 10,000, I boarded on a bus for Kathmandu,” Raya said adding, “Now I will only go back when I get the amount, otherwise I will commit suicide here.”

The situation is similar for 74-year-old Rajendra Mandal who is yet to receive Rs 1.5 lakh from the sugar mill and for many other sugarcane farmers whose sole income is sugarcane farming.

Many farmers have gathered at the Maitighar Mandala, Kathmandu once again as the promised date to return money has exceeded. The farmers have alleged that the government is protecting the sugar industries.

“About two dozen sugarcane farmers of Sarlahi participated in the protest which started in Kathmandu on Sunday,” informed Rakesh Mishra, founder of Sugarcane Farmers’ Struggle Committee, Sarlahi adding, “The number will increase as more farmers are coming from the district.”

According to Mishra, the farmers of Sarlahi are yet to receive Rs. 360 million from the two sugar mills while sugarcane farmers across the country are yet to receive Rs 900 million from sugar mills.

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies, on the other hand, has said that sugarcane mills owe around Rs 550 million to farmers.

Meanwhile, Annapurna Sugar Mill has issued a statement on Sunday stating that it will sell the industry and pay the farmers. A statement issued by mill operator Rakesh Agrawal states that they have already paid Rs 180 million after the agreement reached in December last year.

The Rastriya Janamorcha has accused the sugar mills of exploiting the farmers under the protection of the government.

In a statement issued on Monday, Janamorcha vice-president and MP Durga Poudel said, “We demand action against non-paying sugar mills, stop exploitation of farmers, fix fair price of sugarcane production and provide necessary assistance to farmers.”

Poudel has mentioned that his party is in support of the protest started by sugarcane farmers in Kathmandu on Sunday.

After the agitation last year, the government agreed to coordinate the payment, but the farmers have come to protest again after not receiving the payment even after promised date.

Expressing solidarity with the farmers’ demand through social media on Monday morning, Poudel urged the government to meet their demands and provide relief as soon as possible.

He wrote, “Nepali sugarcane farmers have come to the capital to seek help as they have not received the amount of their hardwork. Expressing full sympathy and solidarity to the mill owners and the farmers who have been the victims of the collusion and negligence of those in the government, I strongly urge them to meet demands of farmers as soon as possible and provide relief.”