By Sanjay Borkar
Panaji, Jan 15 (SocialNews.XYZ) Sugarcane farmers in Goa are in distress over no 'buyers' for their sugarcane, who are dependent on neighbouring states for purchase as the only Sugar factory of this coastal state has stopped operations for the last three years.
The president of Goa Us Utpadan Sanghatana (Sugarcane Producers Association) Rajendra Desai told IANS that though the season of harvesting has started, there are no 'buyers' from neighbouring states.
"There are almost 850 members with our association. Many have stopped growing sugarcane after sugar factory stopped operations. But those who have grown the crop are suffering as nobody is coming to buy it," Desai said.
According to him, there are agents who approach to purchase the sugarcane yield, but after harvesting they fail to pay the promised rate. "They give oral assurances and once the sugarcane is harvested they don't keep their word. We are suffering. My own sugarcane is yet to be harvested as there is no taker," he said.
'Sanjivani Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana' (Goa's only sugar factory) was set up in 1972 by the first Chief Minister of Goa Dayanand Bandodkar at Dharbandora in south Goa. It had an excellent track record at the initial stage with many farmers engaged to take production of this crop.
The sugar factory, however, went into losses in the last one decade or more and three years ago its operations were stopped stating it was not viable to operate. It was told then that after operations are stopped a new plant will be installed, which would also give by-product. However this has not come into reality yet.
According to reports, in 2017-18 around 789.48 ha land was under cultivation, with the engagement of 955 farmers producing 47,503.723 tonnes of sugarcane. In the subsequent year 798.64 ha land was under cultivation with the engagement of 865 farmers, who then produced 33,212.773 tonnes of sugarcane.
In 2020 the government announced to shut the operation of the sugar factory and production dropped to 26,282.61 tonnes, which was cultivated on 664.17 ha with engagement of 784 farmers.
Subsequently, Sugarcane farmers lost interest and in 2020-21 the production dropped to mere 31,202.188 ha and the number of farmers came down to 535. Only 431.57 ha of land was cultivated last year.
Desai said that this year also, the production will drop as the farmers have lost interest as the factory is not starting operations. "We have demanded that the sugar factory should be started immediately, otherwise we will suffer," he said. According to him, there are many families that are only dependent on sugarcane production.
He added that due to the stopped operation of the sugar factory, they are not getting a good rate for their produce. "They (agents/traders) ask for a cheaper rate. Traders have come to know the situation we are going through," Desai said.
He said that after the operations at the sugar factory were shut, the government took the responsibility to deal their sugarcane with traders, but for only one year.
"Government helped us for only one year to deal with traders or sugar factories from neighbouring states to purchase our sugarcane. Now in the last two years we are struggling to sell the produce," he said.
According to him Sugarcane cultivation is done in Sanguem, Quepem, Canacona, Dharbandora, Sattari, Bicholim and Pernem Talukas.
In a bid to bring the loss-making factory in profit, late Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar in 2017 had advocated need to take by-product out of sugarcane
While telling the basic principle of the Sugar factory that if it (sugar) is established as a by-product, the factory will run best, Parrikar had said that there is need to generate ethanol, alcohol, biomass, biogas from sugarcane waste.
He had asked the officials, then, to prepare a financial roadmap and to come up with points how this factory will come in profit.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari during the Assembly election campaign in 2017 had stressed the need to generate fuel from farm products. He had said that the alternate fuel can be generated from rice straw, wheat straw, cotton straw and used sugarcane waste. This had given hope to sugarcane farmers that the factory will grow and they will get good opportunities to sell their produce.
"We have to generate ethanol, alcohol, biomass, and biogas from sugarcane waste. For this I have asked for a detailed report. I want to address financial and production problems and have to ponder on which requirement we can convert positivity by ensuring generation of all products. Only after getting the detail report I will make decision," Parrikar had said.
Sugar Factory in Goa used to produce around 1,300 bags of 50 kg sugar annually by procuring around 70,000 tonne sugarcane from the neighbouring states and from local farmers which used to produce around 50,000 tonne.
According to sources, in 1990-91 around 1.5 metric tonne sugarcane was harvested in the state. But in recent years, the production has dropped.
Sources informed that recently 'Request for Quotation' (RFQ) was invited to set up an ethanol production plant at Dharbandora and the process is on.
Meanwhile, Sugarcane farmers met Goa Forward Party MLA Vijai Sardesai over the issue seeking his help to raise the issue.
"Promised the All Goa Sugarcane Farmers Association that I'll voice their issues in the assembly session. The Goa government not only failed to fulfill the promises made but also turned its back on the massive real estate scam that's in full swing on Sanjivani Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana land," Sardesaid said.