NEW DELHI: Concerned over growing agrarian crisis, the Government will soon take steps to help sugar mills clear dues of over Rs 20,000 crore to cane growers as well as address quality concerns in wheat procurement after the recent spell of unseasonal rains.
Prime Minister Narendra late yesterday held a high-level meeting to discuss concerns of cane growers and wheat farmers.
The meeting comes in the backdrop of Opposition parties attacking the Modi-government for being "insensitive" towards farmers, whose worries have aggravated due to cane arrears and crop failure following recent unseasonal rains and hailstorm.
"Prime Minister discussed issues in length. Some positive steps will soon be taken to address the problems of farmers," highly placed sources said.
In the meeting, the issue of raising import duty on sugar to 40 per cent from existing 25 per cent, creating buffer stock, restructuring of loan, promotion of ethanol output, export subsidy on white sugar were discussed in detail.
The meeting also deliberated on problems faced in procurement of wheat due to quality concerns.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman were also present in the meeting.
Paswan had called two separate meetings earlier this month of farmers and chief ministers to resolve the cane arrears crisis. He had said that he would brief about the suggestions made by farmers and CMs to the PM for taking policy decisions.
Sugar industry is facing difficulty in paying cane price to farmers as mills have been incurring losses for the last few years due to low realisation and high cost of production.
Maximum cane arrears belongs to sugar mills situated in Uttar Pradesh, where not only cane growers, but wheat farmers have also been affected because of recent untimely rains.
Since quality of wheat has been affected due to rains, the government has relaxed procurement norms in some states including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.
Despite relaxed norms, farmers are still facing problems in selling their produce to state-run FCI and other agencies because of wheat grain got damaged beyond permissible limit.
Sugar industry body ISMA has been demanding that the government give exports subsidy on white sweetener, create buffer stock of 2 million tonnes and also restructure millers' debt over Rs 36,000 crore to tide over the payment crisis.
Ex-mill prices of sugar have fallen to Rs 21-24/kg in the country, while the cost of production is over Rs 30/kg.
Sugar production in India, the world's second largest producer, is estimated to be higher than domestic consumption for the fifth year in a row this season.