Crop of debt

Sur­plus sugar pro­duc­tion in the coun­try has brought down sugar rates. As mills stop pur­chas­ing sug­ar­cane, farm­ers are driven to sui­cide

Down to Earth - - AGRICULTURE - M SU­CHI­TRA |

O25, when 61–year-old N JUNE Ninge Gowda left for his field in the morn­ing,no­body at home had a clue about what was go­ing through his mind. On reach­ing the field, Gowda set the ready-to-har­vest sug­ar­cane crop on fire,and jumped in,end­ing his life.

Gowda was a res­i­dent of Kar­nataka’s southern sugar bowl dis­trict of Mandya and owned a 0.2 hectare (ha) in Pan­dava­pura block. He was de­pressed be­cause there were no buy­ers for his crop.The ma­ture crop has to be har­vested at the right time, else it loses weight. But the sugar mill in his lo­cal­ity, Pan­dava­pura Sa­hakari Sakkare Karkhane (pssk), run by a farm­ers’ co­op­er­a­tive so­ci­ety, had sus­pended crush­ing of sug­ar­canes a few months ago. Sim­i­lar was the case with the other four mills in the dis­trict, in­clud­ing the state-owned Mysore Sugar Com­pany (My­sugar).

Mill own­ers say that five straight years of sur­plus out­put has led to a free fall in sugar prices and they have in­curred huge losses, par­tic­u­larly in the past two years when the rate of sugar in the open mar­ket fell from ` 30,000/tonne in 2013 to ` 19,000/tonne now. As on June 15 this year, the five mills to­gether had a due of about ` 127 crore to the farm­ers for the sug­ar­cane they sup­plied in 2013-14 and 2014-15. The dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion had served a no­tice to the mills on June 15, ask­ing them to start crush­ing im­me­di­ately, but they did not re­spond.

Gowda’s is not an iso­lated case.The state has wit­nessed a spate of farmer sui­cides since the be­gin­ning of June. Ac­cord­ing to

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