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