The joy of getting the highest-ever cane price among the sugarcane growers of Punjab has been cut short because of the crop yield being hit by top borer attack in cane.

As the cane crushing season has officially begun, and farmers have stated harvesting the crop, growers in Dasuya, Tanda and parts of Gurdaspur are dismayed at the low yield of the crop. Earlier this year, when the cane crop was still in its nascent stages of growth, it had also suffered an attack by red rot on 448 acres. This was witnessed in the districts of Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Pathankot and in some parts of Ludhiana.

Growers at the receiving end

The yield has fallen by 50-60 quintals per acre. This is due to the top borer attack, facilitated by conducive weather conditions this year. As a result, whatever gains farmers were to get because of the high cane SAP are being nullified. —Jangveer Chauhan, Farmer

Jangveer Singh Chauhan, president of the Doaba Kisan Committee and a sugarcane grower, said: “If earlier the cane yield was 300 quintals, it is down to 240 to 250 quintals now. This is because of the top borer attack.”

Officials in the Agriculture Department say they are working to ensure that the pest attacks are minimised in the future as they are replacing the seed of sugarcane with pest-resistant varieties.

This year, the Punjab Government has hiked the State Advised Price (SAP) of cane to Rs 360 per quintal. This hike was announced by the former Chief Minister. However, the “powerful” owners of seven private sugar mills in the state refused to pay the enhanced SAP (increase was Rs 50 a quintal), asking the state government to pay the enhanced price. It was then decided that the state will bear 70 per cent of the enhanced price (Rs 35 per quintal) and this subsidy will be paid to the mills.

The area under sugarcane cultivation is 1.16 lakh hectares. For several years the government has been trying to increase this area, but because of delayed payments by sugar mills (seven private mills and nine cooperative mills), the farmers have not shown much interest in diversifying to cane.

This year, however, most of the sugar mills have already cleared the dues of the previous years. Barring two sugar mills at Phagwara and Dhuri, most others have already released the pending payments to farmers. “The Phagwara-based mill owes Rs 49.99 crore to the farmers and the one in Dhuri owes Rs 2 crore. We have initiated proceedings under the Revenue Recovery Act to recover the dues and properties of the Phagwara-based mill have been attached,” Punjab Cane Commissioner Gurvinder Singh told The Tribune.

Source: 29 November, 2021, the Tribune