New Delhi: Political leaders from all parties will have to face the anger of sugarcane farmers in the upcoming 2019 election in almost 50 Lok Sabha seats, especially in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Maharashtra, where cane farmers are in a dominating position to sway the political winds. The farmers are angry due to their outstanding dues.

The crisis is that cane arrears could touch Rs 40,000 crore in the next three months, just before the general elections. Sugarcane industry has been raising its voice for hike in sugar prices to protect them as they are facing financial crunch for the last ten years. 

Even though the issue of cane arrear is a big one in several states so far, but the crisis is more acute in large cane producing states such as UP and Maharashtra. Even here, the picture is quite different in UP as compared to Maharashtra.

In UP, maximum cane farmers are completely dependent on private sugar mills for selling their crop. State-owned corporation and cooperative sugar mills have failed to purchase from them. 

While in UP, the state government sets sugarcane prices separately than Centre’s MSP, Maharashtra applies the central government’s formula. 

According to sources, current arrears of cane farmers reached Rs 19,000 crore on 31 December 2018, while the previous outstanding arrears amount to Rs 9,000 crore. Farmers agitated several times against the backlog in UP in 2018. They even burnt the sugarcane fields alleging that the state government had failed to fulfil its promise of clearing the arrears.

In the politically sensitive state of UP, over 35 Lok Sabha seats out of 80 are dominated by cane farmers. They are a decisive votebank in these seats, especially in western UP.

The seats on which cane issues could decide the fate of politics in 2019 are as follows: Saharanpur, Kairana, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Nagina, Moradabad, Rampur, Sambhal, Amroha, Meerut, Bagpat, Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Hathras, Mathura, Azamgarh, Bareilly, Sitapur, Pilibhit, Shahjahanpur, Faizabad, Ballia and Jaunpur.

In Maharastra such Lok Sabha seats are: Solapur, Sangli, Pune, Kolhapur, Nashik, Satara, Ahmednagar, Dhule, Nandurbar, Jalgaon, Aurangabad, Beed, Parbhani, Hingoli, Nandan, Osmanabad, Tur, Buldhana, Jalna, Yavatmal, Akola, Amravati, Wardha and Nagpur.

According to the Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) report this year, sugar production could drop to 3.05 crore ton, way lower than last year. The association also demanded the Centre to hike sugar price by Rs 5 per kilogram. 

The association said, “Worldwide sugar production is higher than last year. The international market is very competitive so the government should take up some step to bring succour to the industry”. But, the government is not favour of hiking sugar prices just before a general election.