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Ahead of state assembly elections, NDA focuses on sugarcane farmers

Earlier, the government had approved the policy for the 2019-20 sugar season involving an export subsidy of  ₹10,448 per metric tonne (mt) to sugar mills. (AP)Premium
Earlier, the government had approved the policy for the 2019-20 sugar season involving an export subsidy of 10,448 per metric tonne (mt) to sugar mills. (AP)

  • Elections are due in Maharashtra, Haryana, and Jharkhand later this year and in Delhi early next year
  • The farm focus comes at a time when PM Modi’s second term in office has been clouded by the economic slowdown

New Delhi: The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is gearing up for the upcoming state assembly elections with a particular focus on sugarcane farmers in states such as Maharashtra and Haryana. A case in point being the last three union cabinet meetings wherein policy decisions pertaining to sugarcane farmers have been the highlight.

Months before Maharashtra and Haryana, which are among the top cane producing states, go to polls, the NDA government is coming up with a string of measures to help counter the surplus sugar stock’s impact on prices. The move is aimed at helping farmers, a politically sensitive constituent that the NDA government is seeking to connect through various policy interventions.

Elections are due in Maharashtra, Haryana, and Jharkhand later this year and in Delhi early next year. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is in power in all of these states except Delhi.

While the CCEA on Tuesday increased the ethanol price for ‘C’ heavy molasses and ‘B’ heavy molasses by 29 paise per litre and 1.84 per litre per respectively to be procured by state run oil marketing companies such as Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL), it also fixed the price of ethanol from sugarcane juice, sugar and sugar syrup at 59.48 per litre.

This comes in the backdrop of the central government’s plan to double farmer incomes by 2022; even as rural woes, particularly in Maharashtra, are acute with floods in the western part of the state, and the drought-like situation in the eastern part.

Earlier, the government had approved the policy for the 2019-20 sugar season involving an export subsidy of 10,448 per metric tonne (mt) to sugar mills. Around 6,268 crore will be transferred directly to the farmers. Also, in July, the Union cabinet had approved the creation of a buffer stock of 4 mt sugar at an estimated cost of 1,674 crore. The step was aimed at increasing wholesale prices of sugar and improving cash flow to sugar mills, which in turn would help mill owners to clear farmers’ dues.

The national biofuels policy passed earlier by the NDA government also aimed at improving farmer income and expanded the scope of raw material for ethanol production to include sugarcane juice, sugar beet, sweet sorghum and starch containing materials such as corn, cassava, and damaged grains.

Interestingly, among its first cabinet decisions after coming back to power in the second term, the NDA government extended the scope of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, or PM-Kisan scheme, to include all the 145 million farmers across the country, besides announcing a 3,000 monthly pension scheme for 125 million small and marginal farmers . The previous NDA government, in its interim budget, had announced the income support scheme for small and marginal farmers who own less than five acres (two hectares) of land.

The farm focus comes at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s second term in office has been clouded by the economic slowdown, tepid job growth and decelerating exports. Asia’s third largest economy expanded at 5% in the June quarter, its slowest pace in more than six years, official data showed last week.

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