VILLUPURAM: Sugarcane cultivation, which used to be a major activity in Villupuram till January this year, has allegedly turned bitter. Farmers, who have been in distress owing to various issues in cultivation, harvest and profit owing to non-compliance of officials and private mills have, switched to cultivating other crops. Farmers’ association said nearly 50 per cent of all the farmers in Villupuram district have given up sugarcane cultivation for good.
TNIE spoke to a few of the farmers who given up sugarcane cultivation to understand the issues faced by them. G Kaliyamoorthy (60) from Villupuram taluk owns five acres of land. He had recently shifted from cultivating sugarcane to black-eyed peas, owing to constant loss.
“Private sugar mills usually mark a large area of farmland under their limit, registering sugarcane crops from the area to be sold only to them. This is something like copyrights. So, we take loans to meet the expenses of the crop cycle. Then we harvest the crops and sell it to the mills, which are supposed to pay the Fair Remunerative Price (FRP) within 15 days from depositing the produce at the mill. However, the private mills take between six months to one year to pay us,” he claimed.
Another farmer, J Chinnapa (55) of Vikravandi taluk, who owns around three acres of land and is currently cultivating paddy, said, “We used to raise money to manage a crop cycle for sugarcane by taking loan from Co-operative Bank and mortgaging jewellery, only in hope that we will be able to repay the loan and interest when we receive the FRP. When the FRP gets delayed, we will be pushed into serious financial crisis. We will have no money to run the household and forced to starve sometimes.”
A member of the managing sector from a private mill in Mundiyambakkam, on condition of anonymity, said the profit in the mill had been declining and revenue had dropped significantly during the lockdown, which is why they are unable to settle the FRP for farmers.
Meanwhile, official sources said Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, during his meeting with farmers in the district on Wednesday, informed that the Centre had promised to release funds for industrial development and after that, the sugar mills will be enabled to settle the pending amount.
Villupuram All Farmers Association General Secretary G Kalivardhan told Express, “The CM’s assurance is believable. However, given our previous experiences with sugar mills, we are worried. Almost 50 per cent of all farmers in the district have shifted to winter crops and will, probably, never cultivate sugarcane owing to continued loss.”