KATHMANDU, Jan 3: Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supplies Lekhraj Bhatta has assured the agitating farmers that they will receive their payments from sugar mills by the first week of Magh (January 20).
The sugarcane farmers from various districts of the central Terai have marched to Kathmandu and staging demonstration at Maitighar Mandala for the past few days pressuring the government to resolve the payment issue.
According to the troubled farmers, many sugar mills have not paid their dues for the past five years, which amount to more than 1.3 billion rupees.
Of the total due, mainly six mills, Annapurna Sugar Mills owes an outstanding due of Rs 500 million, Shreeram Sugar Mills owes Rs 420 million, Mahalaxmi Sugar Mills owes Rs 200 million, Bagmati Sugar Mills owes Rs 210 million and Rs 100 million each is yet to recover from Lumbini Sugar Mills and Indira Sugar Mills.
“We have already directed the sugar mills to clear the 80 percent payment to the farmers by January 10 and the remaining amount by January 20,” Minister Bhatta told reporters at an interaction program organized by the Reporters’ Club Nepal on Friday.
“The transaction of those mills failing to clear the dues before the deadline will be frozen,” he added.
The government has also decided to form a committee consisting of ministry officials, sugar farmers, representatives from sugar mills and experts to study the problems and recommend a solution within 15 days.
According to Bhatta, Mahalaxmi Sugar Mill has given a written commitment to clear all the dues by January 10.
“Likewise, Annapurna Sugar Mill has already come into contact with the ministry. The mill paid Rs 2,407,000 yesterday, and is clearing Rs 3,000,000 today.”
“The owner of Indira Sugar Mills have also come into contact while Shree Ram Sugar Mill has promised to clear the dues.”
“We have learned that the owner of Lumbini Sugar Mill has passed away. His family has not come into contact yet.
Bhatta said, Bagmati Sugar Mill has already paid Rs 24,100,000 to the farmers; Himal Sugar Mill has paid Rs 20,000,000; Everest Sugar Mill has paid Rs 18,000,000; and Reliance Sugar Mill has paid Rs 3,389,000 to the farmers.
He also asked the protesting farmers to return home assuring them that they will be paid in full by the sugar mills by Jan 20.
“I am ready to make a written agreement with the farmers,” he said.
The representatives of the farmers present in the program, who had earlier demanded a written agreement before they return home, were happy for the ministry’s effort.
“We are happy that the minister is giving us a written promise,” said Hari Shyam Raya, secretary of Sugar Farmers’ Struggle Committee.